Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Virginia last week. (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
WASHINGTON — Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney saw a surge of donations in September, bringing in $170 million, a major cash infusion that will help pay for a deluge of advertising in the final weeks of the White House contest.
Romney came close to matching the $181 million that President Obama raised last month — and he did so during a rocky period for his candidacy and before his solid performance in the Oct. 3 debate, an event that greatly energized the Republican base.
Campaign officials indicated Monday that October was shaping up to be even better on the money front. Spokeswoman Andrea Saul tweeted that the campaign had raised more than $27 million in online donations in the first two weeks, better than any month's total so far.
The rapid contribution pace set by the former Massachusetts governor in September puts him on track to join Obama in raising more than $1 billion for his presidential bid by election day, with both surpassing the previous record.
As of Sept. 30, Romney had pulled in nearly $839 million through his campaign, the Republican National Committee and a joint fundraising committee, according to Federal Election Commission data and the Campaign Finance Institute.
Obama's campaign and affiliated committees had raised $947 million by the end of September.
Romney's most recent fundraising haul came when he was on the ropes over a leaked videotape of comments he made suggesting that Obama had the support of 47% of the country because they depend on government aid.
The tape was seized upon by Democrats, who featured Romney's remarks in a series of ads that attacked him as a wealthy businessman indifferent to the needs of the middle class. As Romney struggled to explain the comments, he spent much of the month attending fundraisers, leading some Republicans to express concern that he was not holding sufficient public events.
But his cultivation of donors appeared to pay off. At the end of September, his campaign and joint committees had $191 million on hand to finance the final stretch of the race. Obama's campaign has not yet revealed its most recent cash-on-hand figure, but it ended August with more than $125 million in the bank.
"Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are offering voters a vision for our country that will grow the economy, increase incomes and bring relief to the middle class," Romney's national finance chairman Spencer Zwick said in a statement Monday that announced September's fundraising total. "That is why we are seeing such strong support from donors across the country."
The campaign has also aggressively courted major donors, who have financed a larger share of Romney's bid than Obama's. On Monday, the top contributors to the GOP candidate assembled at the Waldorf Astoria in New York for a three-day donor retreat that will include a gala reception aboard the retired aircraft carrier Intrepid with Ryan, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Donald Trump.