With a tail wind in both the polls and fund-raising, President Obama’s campaign continues to press that advantage over the airwaves, heavily outspending challenger Mitt Romney’s campaign on television advertising this week.
In nine battleground states, the Democratic incumbent’s team spent about $15.5 million this week compared with about $8.6 million by Romney’s campaign, according to estimates compiled by a group that monitors spending on campaign advertising in the presidential contest.
Three outside groups supporting Romney, however, heavily outspent a pair backing Obama in the same time period, the analysis shows. The figures are for broadcast stations only and do not include cable channels or radio, which typically are much lighter buys.
New fund-raising reports filed by the campaigns, parties, and super PACs for August show that Obama reversed three months of Republican advantage in the money race, cutting deeply in a single month into the GOP’s once-large cash advantage.
The Democrats reduced the available-cash deficit from around $62 million on July 31 to about $30 million on Aug. 31, after candidate and party committees and their debts are factored in. Entering September, the Republicans had about $168 million cash on hand compared with $125 million for the Democrats, not counting debts, according to a Republican National Committee memo to supporters on Friday.
In August, Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super PAC, for the first time also outraised Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing Romney, and this week was spending about double the amount of its Republican counterpart on television ads in key states.
However, American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Public Strategies, the related super PAC and “social welfare”nonprofit group cofounded by Karl Rove continue to be major players in the ad wars on the GOP side. This week, they bought about $5 million and $6 million, respectively in broadcast time. Americans for Prosperity, founded by the conservative billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, has stopped buying advertising time in the presidential race after spending about $46 million on broadcast television advertising. Like Crossroads GPS, it is a “social welfare” nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors.
Obama benefits by channeling so much of his fund-raising into his candidate’s committee and not into the Democratic National Committee kitty. The candidate’s committee pays a lower rate for ads than party committees and outside groups.
As of Aug. 31, the Obama campaign had $87.7 million cash on hand and debts of $2.8 million compared to the Romney campaign’s $50.4 million and an outstanding debt of $15 million, the balance of a $20 million loan the campaign required to stay afloat until after the Republican convention in August, when a separate fund of general election campaign donations could be used.
For the first time in the post-Watergate era, neither candidate is taking a grant of public funds for the general election campaign. As a result, both candidates and surrogates have continued to raise funds after their party conventions. By one unofficial tally, Romney has attended no fewer than 53 fund-raisers in the past seven weeks days while Obama headlined at least 10 in that time frame.
Obama’s campaign said the ability of third-party groups, which are especially active on the Republican side, to raise and spend unlimited amounts after the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case has driven the Democrat’s fund-raising pace to offset that.
“We are determined to not be overwhelmed by an avalanche of special interest money being spent in support of Mitt Romney,” Michael Czin, an Obama campaign spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Grass-roots supporters, many of whom give only a few dollars at a time, play a large part, he said. Obama’s campaign has reported it had about 3.1 million donors as of Sept. 1.
Most of the haul at Romney’s big-dollar events is earmarked for party committees, which have higher limits for donations from individuals than the candidates’ own committees. For the Romney-Ryan Committee itself, it will be more difficult to close the gap on Obama, with his vast base of small-dollar donors, because contributions from individuals to candidate committees are limited to $2,500. Individuals may contribute up to $30,800 per year to the national parties plus lesser amounts to other committees. Individual, corporate, and labor union contributions to super PACs, which must act independently of candidates and parties, have no limits, however.
Obama’s campaigning on behalf of the Democratic National Committee has been limited recently.