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Fewer big donations to Obama this time

President Barack Obama is struggling to draw big-dollar donations, with half as many people writing large checks to his campaign than at this point four years ago.

Obama is outpacing his Republican rivals in fundraising overall, and his advisers have concentrated on amassing small-dollar backers, part of a strategy to get more people invested in the re-election effort. At the end of January, 1.4 million people had donated to the Obama campaign, responding to appeals for contributions as small as $2.

But Obama lags behind Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in finding donors willing to give $2,000 or more -- a surprising development for a sitting president and one that could signal more worrisome financial problems heading into the general election.

At this point in the last election cycle, Obama had received the large donations from more than 23,000 supporters; this time, 11,000 have given. President George W. Bush had more than four times the number of big donations at this point in his re-election.

Democrats see a variety of possible explanations for such a dramatic drop in big-dollar contributions. The ailing economy has dampened fundraising overall.

Some wealthy liberals and Wall Street executives have grown disaffected with the president over time.

And the extended Republican primary has shined a spotlight on a field of potential rivals that many Democrats believe Obama will easily beat.

"Some people think these Republicans are easy marks, and they aren't taking it as seriously as they need to yet," said Judy Wise, one of Obama's bundlers, the campaign term for people who host events and gather checks.

Whatever the reason, Obama appears to be redoubling his efforts to extract bigger contributions from his support base. He has stepped up his fundraising events in recent weeks, taking swings through several regions.

Federal laws cap donations to candidates at $2,500 before and after the convention.