WASHINGTON -- Sometime in early February, top aides to Mitt Romney realized they had a major problem on their hands. The presidential campaign was spending far more money than it was taking in, running an operational debt of about $397,000 each day.
Heading into the critical month of February, they had $7.67 million cash on hand to work with. Considering that they had raised just $6.53 million in January, the former governor of Massachusetts was set to go broke before the month was over.
What followed next were a series of budgetary decisions to keep the campaign operating in the black, both by facilitating a much-needed cash infusion and also by drastically reducing the amount of money going out the door. The effort worked and, in the process, largely kept the primary on a favorable path for Romney. By the end of February, the Romney campaign had $7,273,351 in cash on hand, meaning that it had managed to spend roughly $400,000 more than it took in (about the same disparity that was occurring every single day during the month of January).
But the budget discipline wasn't strictly the byproduct of spending thriftiness. A detailed examination of the January and February expense reports filed by the Romney campaign to the Federal Election Commission reveals a gamble of sorts was taken.
The campaign took more than $6 million out of its advertising budget, leaving Romney without the same airwave and online advantage that he had enjoyed in earlier contests. And it wasn't as if the Romney-allied super PAC Restore Our Future jumped in to fill that void. A review of FEC records filed by the Restore our Future showed that it spent more money on television ads in January ($11.2 million) than in February ($9.95 million).
The Romney presidential campaign also stripped money away from promotional items and stopped renting out fancy facilities. The amount of travel done by aides was cut dramatically and the budget for polling was slashed by nearly $300,0000.
In its place, millions of dollars were devoted to securing new donors, regardless of income bracket. Money spent on telemarketing and event consulting went up dramatically. About $1.28 million more was spent on fundraising consulting in February than had been spent in January.
Below is a list of the major items the Romney campaign purchased, alongside the amount of money spent on these items in January and February (The Huffington Post classified some of the records more specifically than the Romney campaign).
Audio Visual Services:
Difference: - $237,429.65
Campaign Promotional Items:
Difference: - $34,512
Facility Rental and Catering Services:
Difference: - $239,816.91
Difference: - $555,000
Placed Media (Advertising):
Difference: - $5,786,426.81
Difference: - $286,025.84
Telemarketing and Data Management Services:
Difference: - $694,353.13
All told, the Romney campaign wrote checks totaling $12.3 million or so during February. That was down about $6.4 million from the month before. But it would have left the campaign on the precipice of debt were it not for the additional money raised -- money that resulted, ironically, from strategic expenditures.
The adage that you have to spend money to make money proved true for Romney. Though when asked for a comment, Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, insisted his operation as always been a paradigm of smart budgeting.
"We have," she emailed, "always spent wisely and frugally."