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Mitt Romney Burn Rate Hurts Campaign In Critical Stretch

First Posted: 02/21/2012 12:19 pm Updated: 02/24/2012 12:50 pm

If January's trend lines held through February, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign ran out of money two days ago.

The former Massachusetts governor announced Monday night that he had raised roughly $6.4 million in January. More significantly, however, he reported having only $7.7 million cash on hand -- which means that over the course of 31 days, his campaign spent approximately $18.7 million.

This is a remarkable burn rate for a campaign that appeared to be a well-oiled machine not too long ago. Each day in January, Romney spent an average of $603,225 and raised just $206,451, meaning he was spending $397,000 more than he was taking in. If the campaign continued to spend at that rate unabated, it would have burned through the remaining $7.7 million on Feb. 19.

Of course, campaigns make adjustments based on their budgets. And one of the reasons that Romney didn't spend more money advertising in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri is likely because he didn't have the funds to do so. In all, Romney spent $8.47 million on television advertisements in January, the equivalent of $270,967 a day. If he halved that total, it would have given him some more financial flexibility, but not much. Spending $135,500 on television advertisements every day in February -- while maintaining January expenditure levels on other items -- would result in Romney running out of cash on March 1.

Romney, in the end, has some major advantages over the competition. He has a well-funded allied super PAC, Restore Our Future, that has spent millions on television advertising on his behalf. He also has an enormous amount of personal wealth that he can donate to his presidential campaign, as he did in 2008.

If need be, there are several areas where Romney can trim the fat. According to the January filing, the biggest expenditure beyond "placed media" (TV ads) was the $2.2 million put toward printing and design services. The Romney campaign also spent just over $1.8 million on all forms of travel, including air, rail and fuel costs. More than $750,000 was spent on online advertising and $550,000 was spent on direct mail. Less could be spent on each of these things, especially travel and lodging, on which the Romney campaign appears to have splurged a bit.

One area where it may be tougher to cut spending is Romney's staff. His campaign spent $496,292 on "payroll" in January. Relative to other expenditures, it was at the higher end of the middle of the pack. Since the beginning of 2011, in fact, Romney has had 99 people on his campaign payroll, costing a total of more than $3.58 million. That number doesn't include the 50 people that Romney has paid for field, advance, research and communications consulting at a cost of $230,900. Since six of those people were also paid as staffers, the total number of people paid for "consulting" work by Romney is 44.

Compare that to the other campaigns. Since the beginning of 2011, Newt Gingrich has had 31 people on his payroll at a cost of $536,000 ($106,137 of that was spent in January). The former House Speaker has paid 61 people for various forms of consulting work (one of whom was a paid staffer at one point) at a cost of $461,457. Ironically, a good amount of that total was spent in January. The candidate who fired his consultants when his campaign originally floundered and pledged never to rely on that sort of work again spent $121,000 on consulting fees last month -- roughly $36,000 more than he has spent on staff in any month to date.

Rick Santorum is the most frugal of the three. The former Pennsylvania senator has had just 11 people on his "payroll" since the start of the campaign, at a total cost of $109,000. That doesn't include the money he pays to a consulting firm that employs most of his top aides, but it is still a pittance compared to Romney. Santorum spent just $24,282 on "payroll" in January. Since the start of the campaign, moreover, he has paid just 33 people for consulting work -- six of who also were paid as staffers at one point in time -- at a cost of $341,000.

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