But fresh disclosures that began arriving Tuesday at the Federal Election Commission reveal a key advantage now available to Republicans: a constellation of conservative groups that can raise unlimited money to help make up the difference with Obama’s campaign, which must abide by federal contribution limits.
American Crossroads, a fundraising juggernaut founded with the help of GOP political guru Karl Rove, reported raising $51 million in 2011 for its super PAC and nonprofit arms, with a goal of raising about $200 million more by November. Other super PACs backing Republican presidential candidates raised tens of millions to spend in primary-election states, suggesting a deep reservoir of financial resources for the eventual nominee.
Interest groups have begun to hit Obama with millions of dollars’ worth of negative advertising. American Crossroads has spent $10 million on television ads against the president and Americans for Prosperity, another conservative group, has spent $6.8 million, according to data from Kantar Media/CMAG.
Obama began running his own television ads two weeks ago, but he is still being outspent by the Republican interest groups targeting him. In the week that ended Sunday, Americans for Prosperity spent $1.6 million on television ads attacking the Obama administration’s support of the bankrupt green-energy firm Solyndra. Obama’s campaign spent $1.3 million on television ads to defend his record on the matter.
The emerging pattern suggests that Obama may have an increasingly difficult time staying ahead of his competitors in the money race this year, particularly after Republicans coalesce around one candidate focused on winning the White House. That contender will almost certainly receive a surge of contributions from Republicans who want to beat Obama.
The president is likely to receive meager help from the main Democratic super PACs, which reported bringing in just $19 million in combined fundraising in 2011.
“There’s a great incentive on the side of wealthy conservatives to contribute in this election, given the desire to defeat the president and the perceived weakness of the president given the economy,” said Anthony Corrado, an elections expert at Colby College and former Democratic Party official.
American Crossroads President Steven Law agreed, adding that the power of incumbency gives Obama an edge over his rivals.
“The party that has Air Force One and the presidential podium has the advantage to raise more resources,” Law said. “The eventual Republican nominee will start from a position of financial and perhaps physical exhaustion.”