WASHINGTON -- A month of torrential fundraising by Mitt Romney and big spending by President Barack Obama has upended the state of the campaign money race, with Romney and the Republican National Committee leading Obama and the Democratic National Committee in cash on hand as the campaign headed into the month of August.
According to reports filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission, Romney and the RNC combined to raise $78 million in July. That was well ahead of the $59 million raised by Obama and the DNC. At the same time, the Obama team combined to outspend Romney and the Republicans $90.6 million to $71 million in July. The majority of the money Obama and the Democrats spent, $52 million, went toward television and radio advertisements. The Romney campaign and the RNC spent only $35 million on television advertisements in July.
Now, the money race has left the two candidates near even as Romney has taken the lead in cash on hand, with $118.9 million versus Obama's $103 million. That number may count going into August, but it cannot make up for the spending provided by Obama's massive cash on hand advantage throughout the late spring and early summer.
That advantage, provided by the lack of a primary opponent and a clear Republican nominee, enabled Obama's torrid spending to outpace Romney. The former governor, meanwhile, spent big in the extended primary, which kept him from pulling in the large checks that he now raises in concert with the RNC and are powering his comeback.
The Republicans' newfound advantage is largely due to the huge checks that Romney is collecting for the RNC. Donors can give a maximum of $5,000 to the Romney campaign -- $2,500 each for a primary and a general election, which begins as soon as the conventions end -- and $30,800 to the RNC.
Romney's connections to deep-pocketed donors, who have a similarly deep desire to defeat Obama, were on display in July as he raised money across the United States and during his overseas trip to England, Poland and Israel. This has translated into a fundraising bonanza for the RNC. The national party organization has raised more than $30 million in each month since Romney started raising money for it in May, including $37.8 million in July.
The DNC, however, had seen its fundraising remain steady, increasing from $13 million in January to $20 million in June, until it reported only $9.9 million in receipts for the month of July. After spending $31.9 million in the same month, the party organization was left with only $15 million cash on hand, compared to the $88.7 million held by the RNC.
The poor showing by the DNC could be a product of the displeasure wealthy donors see in Obama and his inability to cater to their whims. In a New Yorker article, Jane Mayer details the many ways that donors capable of kicking in tens of thousands of dollars were turned off by the president. The complaints range from displeasure with Wall Street types being blamed for the financial collapse of 2008 and the ensuing recession to anger over Obama's distaste for glad-handing (he refused to pose for pictures with guests at his first White House Christmas party).
One fundraiser explained to Mayer how some donors felt about the failure to pose for pictures: "If you’re not going to deregulate my industry, or lower my taxes, can’t I at least get a picture?"
Obama, despite the DNC's unproductive month, continued to raise funds at a pace only slightly behind that of his record-setting 2008 race. The president raised $49 million in July, just behind the $50.9 million he raised in July of 2008. He is currently $36 million behind the amount he had raised at a similar time in 2008, but he has nearly kept pace since May.
Small donors are still a big part of the Obama fundraising operation. Donors giving under $200 contributed $16.3 million to the Obama campaign in July and accounted for one-third of all contributions.
Long having raised far less than Obama, July was much kinder to Romney. He raised $40 million in July, the first time his campaign brought in a higher haul than the RNC since they linked their efforts. He also raised a significant amount from small donors -- $11.7 million, or 29 percent of his total -- after regularly raising small amounts, usually less than 10 percent, from grassroots donors in previous months.
The heavy fundraising in the presidential race, and the close focus on it, is a product of Obama's 2008 decision to opt out of the public finance system that all previous candidates had used in the general election. By opting out, he was able to raise $750 million for his campaign committee alone, which made the pittance granted to his opponent Sen. John McCain, who accepted public funding, all the more infinitesimal.
Neither Obama nor Romney are accepting public funds for their campaigns in 2012, and both will seek to raise as much money as Obama did four years ago.
Most of their fundraising occurs through their respective victory committees, joint fundraising vehicles that accept large donations and dole them out to other committees. Since Romney's committee files quarterly and not monthly, it cannot be accurately compared to monthly totals contained in reports disclosed Monday. The Obama Victory Fund reported raising $11.6 million more in July than it transferred to the Obama campaign and the DNC or spent otherwise.
The Romney victory committee finally disbursed funds it was holding to committees other than the Romney campaign and the RNC attached to it. The state Republican parties in Idaho, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Vermont each received $5 million, while the National Republican Congressional Committee received $1.5 million.