(CNN) - According to the President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, the president has been the target of negative ads from outside groups totaling tens of millions of dollars - even before the first voting in the Republican primary has begun.
By their tally, outside groups like Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity, the Republican National Committee, Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, and the Coalition for American Jobs have spent $16.6 million dollars on anti-Obama ads nationwide. These groups have spent $1.5 million on anti-Obama ads in Iowa alone, according to Obama’s campaign.
Super PACs supporting individual candidates have spent $10.1 million on ads that often include messages criticizing the president and his leadership. These groups spent $5.9 million in Iowa.
To date the spending hasn't changed the race – the latest CNN/Time/ORC International poll shows the president continues to rate ahead of his possible opponents in the GOP field.
Still, the numbers are worrying to Democratic Party leaders, who are increasingly talking about finding new ways to match the GOP's success raising unlimited big money donations. There's talk of bringing in new fundraisers or merging existing efforts.
Scaring donors with the specter of competing against the GOP and its supporting PACs could also be an effective fundraising tool for team Obama. The PACs include the Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads, and Americans for Prosperity, financed by the Koch brothers.
On Thursday Democrats seemed to head in that direction. In a video to donors, Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina used stark language to describe the money advantage he believes the eventual Republican opponent will have in the upcoming campaign. He said the president's campaign itself does not accept money from PACs, and called reports he'd raise $1 billion "bull****.”
The campaign will end its fourth fundraising quarter Saturday, December 31st.
Jonathan Collegio, communications director for GOP SuperPAC American Crossroads says "Outside groups on the right like American Crossroads are trying to balance out the completely dominant position that Big Labor has had in American elections since the 1930s."
He says labor unions spent $400 million on the 2008 election according to the New York Times and of the top five outside spending groups in the 2010 election cycle three were labor unions, according to the Wall Street Journal. Collegio insists, the Obama aides are "purposefully ignoring the fact that Big Labor will spend at least a half a billion to elect Obama and the Democrats in 2012."