President Obama has spent more campaign cash more quickly than any incumbent in recent history, betting that heavy early investments in personnel, field offices and a high-tech campaign infrastructure will propel him to victory in November.
Since the beginning of last year, Mr. Obama and the Democrats have burned through millions of dollars to find and register voters. They have spent almost $50 million subsidizing Democratic state parties to hire workers, pay for cellphones and update voter lists. They have spent tens of millions of dollars on polling, online advertising and software development to turn Mr. Obama’s fallow volunteers corps into a grass-roots army.
The price tag: about $400 million from the beginning of last year to June 30 this year, according to a New York Times analysis of Federal Election Commission records, including $86 million on advertising.
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.
Source: The New York Times | NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and JO CRAVEN McGINTY