The Washington Post

Both Romney and Obama ran $1 billion campaigns

The Obama campaign got a lot of things right in the 2012 election. One thing they didn't get right: that it wouldn't be a billion-dollar campaign.

The Obama and Romney campaigns and allied committees both cracked $1 billion in reports filed late Thursday with the Federal Election Commission, making 2012 the most expensive presidential race on record.

President Obama, with Mitt Romney in the background at a debate. (Scott Eells -- Bloomberg)

In the end, President Obama had slightly more than $1.1 billion spent on him by his campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the top super PAC devoted to his reelection, Priorities USA Action.

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, had right between $1 billion and $1.1 billion spent on him by his campaign, the Republican National Committee and his super PAC, Restore Our Future.

While the financial battle was very even overall, each candidate had his moments when he was more flush with cash than others, and the sources of that money were very different.

Romney obviously spent lots of money on the primary campaign and ran out of primary funds before September, being forced to take out a $20 million loan and struggling to compete with Obama's summer ad spending. He also got a lot more help from his super PAC and the RNC than Obama did from his super PAC and the DNC.

Obama was well-funded throughout but saw his fundraising drop off in the summer months and was outspent later in the game. His campaign itself had much more money than Romney's because it was able to take more small dollar donations. (Romney relied on big donors, who had to give most of their money to the RNC, which can take larger donations, and super PACs, which can take unlimited donations.)

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said early in the campaign that the idea Obama would raise $1 billion for his effort was "bullsh**" -- a bit of expectation-setting, no doubt.

But he was wrong.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The New Hampshire primary is today. Get caught up on the race.
What to expect in the New Hampshire primary
The Post's Philip Bump says ...
Since he proclaimed that he'd win New Hampshire last summer, Bernie Sanders has seen a swing of about 50 points in his direction. Impressive. But not as impressive as the guy on the other side of the political aisle. Donald Trump has led the Republican field in New Hampshire for almost 200 days, and has held a lead in 51 straight live-caller polls -- every poll stretching back to last July.
The feminist appeal may not be working for Clinton
In New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders is beating Clinton among women by eight percentage points, according to a new CNN-WMUR survey. This represents a big shift from the results last week in the Iowa caucuses, where Clinton won women by 11 points.
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the state.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont.
56% 41%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.