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WASHINGTON (AP) — Picking up the pace, President Barack Obama raised $45 million for his re-election bid in February, bringing his total to about $300 million for this election cycle, his campaign said Monday.

Obama stepped up fundraising efforts during the month, collecting nearly twice as much as the $23 million per month average he raised during the final three months of 2011 and more than the $29.1 million he raised in January. The money was spread among Obama’s campaign, the Democratic party and two campaign funds.

Obama’s campaign said nearly 350,000 people contributed in February and the average donation was about $59 for the entire election cycle. Nearly 98 percent of the donations were $250 or less.

With Republicans locked in an extended primary campaign, Obama’s team has tried to build a large 50-state operation that will help it register new voters, bring back past supporters and boost turnout. Obama’s campaign had about $75 million in the bank through the end of January and totals for February were not immediately available.

Campaign officials have implored its supporters to donate money and get involved, pointing to Republican-leaning super PACs expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat the president. Obama’s campaign said earlier this year that it would bless big-money super PACs supporting Democrats as a way of countering the Republican effort.

In an email to donors last week, campaign manager Jim Messina cited a poll showing Obama trailing against Republican Mitt Romney and asked them to get involved.

“We’re looking at a race that will be tighter than you think. And the other side has groups ready to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to tear down President Obama,” Messina said.

Underscoring the urgency, Obama’s totals for February fell short of the $56 million he raised in February 2008, when he was seeking the Democratic nomination against Hillary Rodham Clinton. Republicans said it was a sign of tepid support.

Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman, said Obama was “having a hard time convincing voters he deserves another term” following three years of “record debt, high unemployment, and soaring gas prices and healthcare costs.”

Obama has boosted fundraising efforts in recent weeks, holding events last month in Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Last week, Obama raised money in Chicago and Atlanta.

The fundraising reports were being filed ahead of a Tuesday campaign finance deadline for presidential campaigns.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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Ken Bennett

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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