It’s the $1 billion campaign vs. the $1 billion campaign – and neither side has a clear edge in the money race headed down the home stretch.
Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s campaigns, party committees and super PAC allies are all but assured of raising $1 billion on each side of the campaign ledger by Election Day.
Obama’s side has already pulled in $969 million, while Team Romney’s raised $919 million, according to a POLITICO analysis of Federal Election Commission data.
Yet, while Obama’s side has outraised Romney, the Republican and his allies came into October with a $43 million cash lead on the strength of a somewhat risky big-money hoarding strategy.
Team Romney was criticized for sitting on reserves over the summer while the Obama camp flooded the airwaves with attack ads, but Romney’s October ad spending binge seems to have come at an optimal time. The GOP nominee surged on the strength of a strong performance in the first debate, and polls indicated that he closed the gap with Obama as voters gave him another look.
Fueled by big donors, Romney’s campaign, combined with the super PAC and party committees boosting it, had nearly $200 million in the bank at the end of last month compared with $156 million for Obama’s campaign and the super PAC and party committees dedicated to it, according to FEC reports filed this week. They also showed that Romney’s had $12 million less debt than the $27 million owed by the Obama committees, with $20.5 million of that belonging to the Democratic National Committee.
And the Romney campaign has already raised more than $27 million online during the first two weeks of October – more than it raised online during any previous full month – a campaign official told POLITICO.
“Our campaign has the resources and organization to win,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.
Perhaps more important than the overall figures are the starkly divergent approaches illuminated in the FEC reports.
Obama’s campaign and the supportive Priorities USA Action super PAC went on an advertising spending binge over the summer, hoping to define – and potentially put away – Romney, who was restocking his war chest and recouping after a bitter GOP primary. The pro-Romney Restore Our Future super PAC stepped in to fill some of the gap, depleting its bank account with a $30-million advertising push attacking Obama in August.
(Complete coverage: The billion-dollar buy)
Romney’s campaign did not immediately pick up the slack early in September, however, instead waiting a few weeks for a sustained final push. Last month, it spent about $37 million on placed media and production, while the Obama campaign spent nearly $90 million on broadcast ad buys, production and advertising consulting.
But Romney’s late-breaking strategy may be hindered by another strategic difference: His side raised more of its cash through the Republican National Committee and the joint victory fund it set up with the Romney campaign. The RNC and Romney Victory can accept far larger checks than the $5,000-maximum campaign donation, but they also have to pay more for ads than the campaign, face restrictions on how much they can spend in direct coordination with it and – in the case of the joint fundraising committee – is obligated to disburse its cash among a host of far-flung component committees.
To wit, Romney Victory revealed in a Monday report that it had transferred $44 million to the state parties in Idaho, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Vermont and $12 million to the GOP’s national congressional committees – which can’t coordinate with Romney. While the expectation in Boston is that the state party committees will use the cash to fund get-out-the-vote activities in key swing states, the plan carries some risk, representing a sort of outsourcing of critical campaign activity that most campaign operatives prefer to control themselves.
Yet Romney is going to be forced to rely more on others down the stretch, since, at the end of September, the RNC and Romney Victory had $120 million in the bank compared with the Romney campaign’s $63 million.