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Mitt Romney’s money edge — and whether it matters

at 05:53 AM ET, 08/07/2012

In the past two months, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee have outraised President Obama and the Democratic National Committee by $61 million.

And, while Obama’s campaign has yet to release its cash-on-hand total at the end of July, it’s a near-certainty that Romney’s $26 million edge at the end of June widened in July.


Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (C) greets supporters as he arrives at a campaign event with U.S. Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock (L) at Stepto's Bar B Q Shack on August 4, 2012 in Evansville, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Add to those numbers the fact that, as of mid-July, Republican super PACs and other conservative aligned outside groups were outspending their Democratic counterparts by a seven-to-one margin on the TV airwaves in swing states, and you are left with a simple, inescapable conclusion: The President of the United States is likely to be heavily outspent in the final three months of this campaign.

On that point, all political types agree. On how worried Obama and his team are — and should be — about being outspent so heavily, there is considerably more debate.

Guy Saperstein, a major Democratic donor who has been publicly critical of Obama, said he recently played golf with a major Obama donor/bundler and “they will tell you they are worried” about the fundraising disparity in the race’s final stages.

Saperstein added that Obama’s team adding more fundraisers to his schedule — the president was in Connecticut on Monday night to raise money and will spend Wednesday and Thursday in Colorado collecting cash (among other activities) — amounted to evidence of those worries.

(Saperstein did note, however, that he doesn’t believe the race will be determined by which candidate spends the most. More on that below.)

Another Democrat who closely follows the activities of major donors in the party was even more blunt — although he was unwilling to speak on the record about his concerns.

“I would be scared silly if I were them,” the Democrat said of the Obama team. “While they will raise enough in September and October to stay competitive, the psychological and energy drain of having to worry about this will be another burden they don’t need.”

The other strain of thinking about Obama’s near-certain fundraising disadvantage in the race’s final 90 days is that it’s actually less than meets the eye.

Here’s why, according to the Democrats we spoke to:

1. Obama has already spent hugely — to the tune of $400 million! — to define both himself and Romney, setting the narrative for the race to come, no matter how much Republicans can spend between now and Nov. 6.

2. Because of the incessant news coverage of the race, candidate — and even outside group — spending carries significantly less import. “There is so much free media coverage for both candidates, and even more for an incumbent president, that no amount of paid media can come close to matching it,” said Jonathan Prince, a senior Democratic strategist. “What’s critical is to drive message, to own your image and define your opponent’s.”

3. The law of diminishing returns applies to politics. That is, if Romney spends $850 million total on the election to Obama’s $750 million, will it make that big a difference?

All that being said, no one on the Democratic side — and we mean no one — thinks it’s a good thing that Obama and his allies are set to be heavily outspent between now and the election. At best, they argue it’s a neutral factor. At worst, they openly fret about the possibility it could swing what is expected to be a very close contest toward Romney.

“The Obama campaign will have enough money to state their case, but everyone on our side should be worried about [Karl] Rove, [Sheldon] Adelson and the Koch brothers spending hundreds of millions on top of what now looks like a hefty Romney/RNC advantage,” said longtime Democratic operative Steve Rosenthal. “It’s daunting and should be a wake-up call for progressive donors.”

It’s primary day: Voters will head to the polls in four states today — Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington state — for some key primaries.

The highest-profile races are contested GOP Senate races in Michigan and Missouri — Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), in particular, is a top GOP target — but junkies will also want to watch the open Washington governor’s race, where state Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) and former congressman Jay Inslee (D) will compete against one another in the same blanket primary.

Downballot, there are a pair of member-versus-member primaries — one between Reps. Gary Peters (D) and Hansen Clarke (D) in Michigan and the other between Reps. Lacy Clay (D) and Russ Carnahan (D) in Missouri. Peters and Clay are heavy favorites, with the former likely to become only the second white congressman in a majority-black district.

Also in Michigan, the muddled situation in former congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s (R-Mich.) district will be sorted out when write-in candidate and former state senator Nancy Cassis faces the only candidate on the GOP primary ballot, Kerry Bentivolio.

Stay tuned to The Fix this morning for a look at five things to watch for tonight.

Crossroads GPS buys time in five states: The nonprofit arm of the American Crossroads super PAC, Crossroads GPS, is going up with $7.2 million worth of ads in five states, according to a Democratic media buyer.

The money will be spent in Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, and Virginia over the next two weeks. A formal ad buy has not yet been announced.

Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement that the group is spending money because “George Allen, Dean Heller, Denny Rehberg, Rick Berg, John Brunner, Sarah Steelman and Todd Akin will push their special interest agenda in Washington.”

Fixbits:

Romney and the RNC launch a new ad hitting Obama on welfare reform. More here.

Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin will all speak at the Republican National Convention, writes Reuters’ Sam Youngman.

Romney now has the press following him at all times.

Hollywood is raising money for Obama again. Meanwhile, ABC notes that Hollywood is a major outsourcer.

Obama’s campaign releases a web video showing people comparing their fate under Obama’s tax plan to Romney’s.

Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers (R) goes after former governor Angus King (I) for hypocrisy on negative ads.

Americans for Tax Reform targets Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde for refusing to sign its tax pledge.

A new ad for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) says he “always puts Montana first,” noting he was the only Democrat to vote against both the auto and Wall Street bailouts.

North Dakota Democratic Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp pushes veterans health care in a new ad.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) calls Republicans the “E. coli Club.”

Must-reads:

Romney team struggles to sharpen foreign policy message” — Karen DeYoung and Scott Wilson, Washington Post

Romney’s July fundraising outpaces Obama’s” — Bill Turque and T.W. Farnam, Washington Post

In Weak Economy, an Opening to Court Votes of Single Women” — Shaila Dewan, New York Times

Harry Reid’s latest broadside” — Dana Milbank, Washington Post

How to Spot Romney’s Vice President Pick in Advance” — Micah L. Sifry, Tech President

 
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