According to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records by the New York Times, the Obama campaign spent about $400 million on the race from the beginning of last year to June of thus year. This includes about $86 million in advertising.
But with his fundraising not reaching targets, is Obama blowing through too much cash too quickly?
But now Mr. Obama’s big-dollar bet is being tested. With less than a month to go before the national party conventions begin, the president’s once commanding cash advantage has evaporated, leaving Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee with about $25 million more cash on hand than the Democrats as of the beginning of July.
Despite Mr. Obama’s multimillion-dollar advertising barrage against Mr. Romney, he is now being outspent on the airwaves with Mr. Romney benefiting from a deluge of spending by conservative “super PACs” and outside groups. While Mr. Romney has depleted much of his funds from the nominating contest, he is four weeks away from being able to tap into tens of millions of dollars in general election money. And many polls show the race to be very close.
Mr. Obama’s cash needs — he spent $70.8 million in June alone, more than half on advertising and far more than he raised — have brought new urgency to his campaign’s fund-raising efforts. His advisers have had to schedule more fund-raising trips than originally planned to big-money states like New York, according to donors involved in the effort. The super PAC supporting his campaign, Priorities USA Action, is enlisting former President Bill Clinton as a rainmaker, hoping to counter its conservative counterparts.
While Mr. Obama will also have access to general election money in September, he is unlikely to have the same spending advantage over Mr. Romney as he had during the primary season, when Mr. Romney spent much of his money battling Republican rivals.
And with August a traditionally slow month for fund-raising, Mr. Obama has bombarded his supporters in recent weeks with increasingly urgent pleas for money, mindful that he will need to drastically raise his cash intake in the coming months merely to equal his record-breaking haul from 2008.
The Obama campaign recently made another massive ad buy: $77 million between now and the election, mostly in swing states. The campaign is likely to spend at least that much after the convention on ads alone.
But that early spending will pay big dividends in the end. The network of state campaign offices and grass roots outreach by the campaign is unprecedented in American political history. The online efforts of the campaign include some very sophisticated data mining efforts, as well as creative use of social media.
Meanwhile, Romney is limited in what he can spend until after the election when he will become the official nominee of the party. And in the meantime, the Obama campaign has been running a series of attack ads that are working to Mr. Romney’s disadvantage. He is being defined by the Obama campaign and doesn’t have the firepower to respond directly.
The GOP is behind the Democrats in the use of social media and online resources, although Republicans are catching up quickly. Suffice it to say, that even though Romney will probably match the Obama campaign dollar for dollar in fundraising, and even surpass them with the help of conservative super pacs, Obama’s early spending has given him a decided advantage in the trenches where elections are often won or lost before the first ballot is even counted.