WASHINGTON -- A strong fundraising month in September for both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney gave both campaigns and their allied committees something to smile about as they entered the final month of the campaign.
For Romney -- his campaign, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Romney Victory -- entered October with a big cash on-hand advantage just in time to jump after the candidate's dominant first debate performance. The Obama team -- his campaign, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Obama Victory Fund -- can look positively at both its fundraising and spending dominance over Romney and his allies. The team also can be assured that Obama and his team of consultants have more direct control over the money raised than Romney and his top advisers have over their money.
Obama and his team raised a combined $182 million in September, compared with $171 million for the Romney axis of groups. Obama's campaign committee pulled in $126 million, far surpassing the $77 million raised by the official Romney committee.
The RNC, however, dominated the DNC by raising $48 million to the Democratic Party committee's $7.7 million. The DNC took out a $10 million loan to help make up for its low funding. The remaining money was collected by the respective victory committees to be distributed to other groups or sent either to the campaigns or party committees at a later date.
The spending dominance of the Obama campaign rolled along in September. Obama's triad spent $159.8 million in September to the Romney group's $130 million. Remove loan repayments -- the Romney campaign paid back $10 million in loans and the DNC paid $3.5 million -- and the advantage is even greater, $156 million to $120 million. In fact, the Obama campaign's $115 million spent in September nearly matched the entire amount spent by Romney's trio of groups.
A potential bright spot for the Romney campaign is the cash on-hand advantage that it brought into October. The Romney campaign, along with the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Romney Victory, a joint fundraising committee, went into October with nearly $40 million cash on-hand advantage over Obama and his allied groups. The Romney axis held $183 million on Oct. 1 to the Obama team's $149 million. This advantage may have helped fuel Romney's October comeback following his debate win in Denver.
This cash on-hand advantage, however, hinges on money raised by groups that Romney's campaign will not have complete control over. The RNC and Romney Victory have a combined $119 million cash on hand, the majority of Romney's cash advantage. His campaign can only direct the spending of some of this money due to limits on coordinated expenditures and limits on how much the joint fundraising committee can send to committees under Romney's direct control.
Not only does the Romney campaign have to worry about coordinated expenditure limits when it works with the RNC, but it also has to make sure that all of the money raised by its joint fundraising committee is actually going into the presidential campaign. A decent chunk of the money raised by Romney Victory -- $12 million -- has already been transferred to the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, groups working only to elect congressmen and senators.
The Obama campaign, on the other hand, holds almost all of its cash under the umbrella of the flagship operation, Obama for America. The central campaign committee held $99 million in its account at the beginning of October. The Democratic National Committee was practically barren with $4 million cash on hand with $18.5 million in loans taken out in the last two months. Obama Victory Fund held another $45 million yet to be distributed or spent.
This advantage has allowed the Obama campaign to dominate the official Romney campaign committee in nearly every category. Obama for America has raised $565 million to Romney for President's $341 million for the entire campaign. Both campaigns, however, continue to trail the record-setting amount raised by Obama in 2008.
In September, the Obama campaign spent more on television advertising -- $89 million -- than the Romney campaign raised for the whole month. Romney's campaign spent only $36.9 million on televised advertising, leaving the majority of their advertising up to third party groups that they cannot coordinate with like super PACs and social welfare non-profits.
The second biggest expense for both campaigns in September was online advertising. Both campaigns are taking advantage of a campaign finance loophole that allows joint fundraising vehicles to pay for expenses related to fundraising. The campaigns have both leaned on their joint fundraising committees -- Obama Victory Fund and Romney Victory -- for the majority of their online advertising by attaching "donate here" buttons to their online advertisements. In total, the Obama campaign spent $16.7 million on online ads, mostly through Obama Victory Fund, and the Romney campaign spent $13.5 million, almost entirely through Romney Victory.
The sources of the funds raised by the two committees remained the same as throughout the campaign: Romney leaned heavily on large contributions, many of which wound up in the RNC's coffers rather than his, and Obama pulled in big amounts from a mix of donors both large and small for his campaign committee with few contributions flowing to the DNC.
The 4 million-plus support list continued to bring dividends for the Obama campaign as they raised $49.4 million from small donors giving under $200 in September. The Romney campaign pulled in $12 million from small donors, its best haul to date.
The Obama campaign also relied on its big money bundlers to bring in huge checks, providing at least $181 million of the money raised by the Obama campaign and the DNC for the entire campaign. There were 60 bundlers who recently were added to the campaign's list of $500,00-plus fundraisers in the last three months. These included, among others, Obama 2008 finance chairman Penny Pritzker, No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani, fashion designer and film director Tom Ford, actress Eva Longoria and actor Wendell Pierce. The Romney campaign does not disclose their list of bundlers.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that the Obama campaign raised $33 million from small donors. The version did not include small donations transferred into the Obama campaign from the Obama Victory Fund. The $49 million in small donations, the correct amount, comes from combining the listed small donations with those transferred into the campaign from Obama Victory Fund.