WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has shored up support from midlevel donors in some of the most economically distraught areas of the United States, even as his Republican challengers have made jobs a central issue heading into next year's election.
An Associated Press analysis of Obama's fundraising since April found his supporters opened their wallets more often this election cycle in places with the worst unemployment rates. That's compared with the same period four years ago, just months before the country was thrust into a major recession.
The new numbers suggest Republican candidates will have to make a harder sell on the gravity of the nation's 9.1 percent unemployment rate, an issue that has bedeviled Obama throughout his term. Republicans in Congress have opposed the White House on specifics, especially tax increases, in a jobs bill aimed at pulling the economy out of a nosedive.
While Obama reported this week his campaign and the Democratic Party raised a combined $70 million for his re-election bid, similar fundraising totals for the Republican field point to growing support for candidates promising to change the country's direction.
Republican contenders raised a total of about $52 million, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney taking the lead in drawing support from across the country. And they have missed few chances to point fingers at Obama.
Among Obama's supporters, however, there has been an uptick in donations from both Democratic- and Republican-leaning counties, even as more than one in 10 people are out of work in those places.
In the Detroit area, where unemployment has exceeded 14 percent, supporters wrote hundreds of more checks -- albeit in smaller amounts when adjusting for inflation -- to Obama's campaign than in the same period in 2007.
"I believe in the ideas that he has for the country," said donor Barbara Weeda, 70, a retiree in Joshua Tree, Calif., home to San Bernardino county and its 13 percent jobless rate. "How else is he going to get elected than to just dig in and help as much as you can?"
This week, Obama is targeting North Carolina and Virginia, kicking off a three-day bus tour to shore up support in the two southern states he wrested from Republican control four years ago. Nearly three years after his historic election, his approval ratings in both states are sagging.