The White House is bracing for an onslaught of $500 million or more in spending by outside Republican groups opposed to President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election, prompting Obama advisers to give the green light to big Democratic donors to set up similar outside groups to counter the GOP’s effort.

That posture marks a significant shift by a White House that had discouraged outside players in the political arena in 2008…

To counter the anticipated wave of attacks, Axelrod said the White House is ramping up its campaign fundraising goals by equal amounts.

And, when asked three times, Axelrod refused to wave off — and seemed to expect — a similar, well-funded campaign by wealthy Democratic donors and the party’s activist allies in labor and the environmental communities in the 2012 campaigns for the White House and Congress.