The pace of fundraising for Team Rommney has yet to decrease from the beginning of the summer. Overall, the Romney campaign — including the Victory Fund and the Republican National Committee — raised $101 million in July, compared to $75 million for the Obama campaign. The president is still on pace to break his 2008 fundraising totals, but if these numbers are any indication, he’ll remain behind Romney for the remainder of the election season.
What can Romney actually do with this cash haul?
The conventional wisdom is that Romney can gain an upper hand by flooding the airwaves with ads in the final months of the campaign. But if those ads are meant to diminish Obama’s popularity with voters, they’ll fall short. According to Pew, 90 percent of Americans have already made up their minds about the president. When you consider the diminishing return of ads — even in a competitive election, effects are short-lived — there isn’t much to gain from constant commercials.
Romney could devote his extra cash to swing states, but if early numbers are any indication, the battlegrounds are already saturated with campaign messages. Last week the campaigns spent $40 million in swing states, a number which will only increase as November approaches. It should be said that this is a bigger problem for Romney than Obama; as the challenger, Romney is not as well defined in the eyes of the public, and thus more vulnerable to attacks. Indeed, if Team Romney plans to spend its extra haul on ads, it should give weight to more positive spots that could blunt the assault from Team Obama.
The next option for spending is the ground game. Here, Obama has an advantage — he’s been building his grassroots network for more than three year — and it’s not clear Romney can match the sophistication of the Democratic effort with resources alone. However, his money advantage will help him prevent a repeat of 2008, when the McCain campaign was overwhelmed by Obama’s grassroots operation.
But overall everything will be so saturated that a few extra dollars, even on the scale of hundreds of millions, will have a marginal effect.
That said, here’s one thing the Romney camp can do with its cash advantage: contest solidly Democratic states. As Obama demonstrated in 2008, there’s ground to gain by spending money in states where your opponent doesn’t expect a challenge.
This year, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan fit the bill. Disproportionately white and working class, these traditionally Democratic states could fall to Romney if he gains a decisive advantage in the election. A victory is a victory, but in the eyes of the public, a Romney win that cuts into the Democratic coalition could be the difference between a divisive fight and a “mandate.”