What a difference four years of incumbency can mean. In the 2008 presidential race, we couldn't keep up with the amount of donations candidate Barack Obama was raking into the Democrats' coffers.

This time around, the president, who owns the political advantage of having the biggest bully pulpit on the planet, is trailing the Romney ticket in raising campaign dollars. New data shows Republicans outraised Democrats by more than $25 million in July ($101 million to $75 million), the third straight month that the GOP has led in contributions.

What's most discouraging for Democrats is that Romney is making inroads into Democratic territory. Republicans have been taking in large chunks of contributions from traditional Democratic cities like Austin, Texas and even Chicago, Ill., the latter of which is Obama's political power base. Even in the Democratic bastion of Philadelphia, Romney has taken in more than $250,000 since early June.

When it comes to fundraising there is a political divide in this nation, which may give a clue to the fundraising advantage for Romney. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a biweekly newspaper in Washington, D.C., compared 2008 U.S. tax returns for charitable giving. The analysis shows that people who live in politically conservative, "red states" are more generous than those in liberal or "blue states" when religious giving is included.

The eight states that rank highest in the report – Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, Arkansas and Georgia – voted for John McCain in the last presidential contest while the seven lowest-ranking states – Wisconsin, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire – supported Barack Obama.

Two of the top states, Utah and Idaho, have high numbers of Mormon residents, who are known to tithe more regularly than other churchgoers. The remaining states are all in the Bible Belt.

As for the candidates themselves, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle gave $10,772 of the $1.2 million they earned from 2000 through 2004 to charities, or less than 1 percent. But as their income rose, so did their giving. Last year, the Obamas donated $172,130, or 22 percent of their income.

In 2010 Mitt Romney gave 13.73 percent of his taxable income to charitable donations, and that increased to 19 percent in 2011 ($4 million) when his estimated income was $20.9 million.

Vice president Joe Biden and his wife were not as charitable. Last year, they gave $5,540, less than 1.5 percent of their gross income of $379,035, to charity.

In 2011, Paul Ryan and his wife reported an adjusted gross income rose of more than $323,000. They gave 4 percent or nearly $13,000 in donations.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]