The Romney campaign released gaudy May fundraising numbers this morning - $76.8 million, far surpassing the Obama campaign's May haul of $60 million.
As we've been chronicling, the Romney forces have been running circles around Team Obama with SuperPAC cash and "dark" money from the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove's American Crossroads empire.
Until today, however, the Obama campaign had maintained a consistent edge in "hard" money – regulated donations directly to the campaign – which promised, if not to level the playing field, to at least keep the president in the same league with Romney.
If, as it appears, that advantage has evaporated, the president could be in serious trouble.
The Obama campaign is treating this bad news as a blip — and they may have a point. May was the first month Romney was explicitly raising funds for the general election, giving donors who maxed out in the primary campaign an opportunity to re-up for another $2,500 direct to the candidate, and the first month donors could contribute to his joint "Victory" fund with the RNC, to which donors can steer much bigger checks, up to $75,000.
Top Democrats are calling the cash infusion "low-hanging fruit." On a conference call this morning, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said, "We knew this day would come. We anticipated that they would beat us this month."
But dig down in the data, and it appears the bad news for Team Obama goes beyond a one-time cash infusion from big-dollar donors.
The Romney campaign finally seems to be making real strides in cultivating a small-dollar donor base. Mitt received nearly 300,000 donations of less than $250 in May, accounting for $12 million. For perspective, that almost matches the $15 million haul the Obama campaign got from its wildly successful, one-time-only fundraising contest to attend a party at the home of actor George Clooney.