- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Showing increasing strength in the money race, Mitt Romney in July outraised President Obama in all but 11 states, and in all nine of the most likely swing states, chalking up his strongest support yet from small donors.

Buttressed by his reliable large donors and a pair of supportive super PACs, Mr. Romney and his backers raised $24 million more than Team Obama in July.

Totals announced by the Romney campaign earlier this month may have overstated the July haul, however, because disclosures Monday showed that $20 million was transferred to party committees in strategically unimportant states as part of an arrangement between those parties and Mr. Romney’s joint fundraising committee, which focuses on raising funds from the wealthiest donors.

The Republican presidential candidate also scored his best month yet in attracting support from donors giving less than $200. The Romney campaign’s July total of $94 million included $11.8 million from small donors, up from $4 million just two months earlier.

The Obama campaign’s fundraising total in July included $16.4 million from small donors. Combined with donations from the central party committees, the Republicans’ small-donor contributions are now on par with the Democrats’ numbers.

Mr. Obama’s July numbers look better when contributions to party committees — the preferred destination for wealthy supporters — are subtracted. Going head to head, Mr. Obama outraised Mr. Romney in 17 states.

But among swing states, he beat the Republican in only New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Virginia.

The most populous swing state, Florida, gave 61 percent of its cash to Mr. Romney.

Still, while donors at the lowest and highest ends of the spectrum boosted Mr. Romney’s totals, Mr. Obama had a quarter-million contributors give $200 or more, while Mr. Romney had 70,000.

Mr. Obama had significant success tapping donors repeatedly, with his much-touted small donors giving so many times that they passed the definition of small donors. In July, 160,000 people gave small amounts that put their cumulative total between $200 and $500, or $50 million as a group. Mr. Romney, who spent much of the early months of the campaign with his supporters backing Republican rivals instead of his campaign, had 35,000 such repeat small donors for a total of $10 million.

Despite falling behind in the latest fundraising numbers, Mr. Obama has built a long-term, distributed infrastructure that could be difficult for Mr. Romney to replicate, campaign expenditures show.

The Obama campaign had a payroll of $3 million in July, including 858 staffers in 46 states. In May, it had 700 staffers across 44 states and spent $2.6 million. The Romney team, by comparison, spent $1.7 million on payroll for 326 staffers, many of whom work part time and all of whom have Massachusetts addresses.

“I think it’s a huge misconception that Obama is starting to trail Romney in terms of fundraising. Romney is really sprinting, whereas Obama has been running more of a marathon,” said Bill Allison, a campaign finance specialist at the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation. “Obama’s had voter identification, outreach. He’s on the ground. Romney is trying to set that up in a much shorter time frame.”

The Obama campaign spent $40 million on television ads, and recently bought 600 ads in 20 of the nation’s top 50 markets, chiefly in Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Virginia and Nevada, broadcasting records show. The Romney campaign, for its part, spent $21 million, and has bought 250 ads in 17 of those markets, focusing on Ohio, Florida and Virginia but also the District.

The Obama fundraising committee transferred money to party apparatuses in swing states, where it could be used to help Mr. Obama win: $1.3 million to Ohio, $1 million to Florida and Virginia, and $900,000 to North Carolina.

Meanwhile, though it does not file monthly disclosures, Mr. Romney’s joint fundraising committee appears to have raised $59 million, meaning it raised twice as much cash as Mr. Obama from the wealthiest donors. The money that did not go to the Romney campaign or the RNC went to states where fundraisers were held as part of revenue-sharing agreements. Those transfers put a significant dent in Mr. Romney’s overall lead.

The Romney fundraising committee gave $5 million each to party leadership in Massachusetts, Idaho, Oklahoma and Vermont, and also gave $1.5 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which helps party members win House races.

“Those are what we think of as sort of ATM states, which are where candidates go to raise cash, and which are never swing states, where they go to earn votes,” with the exception of Florida, Mr. Allison said.

The joint fundraising committee sent $25 million to the RNC, where it can be used to help elect Mr. Romney, but the RNC can coordinate with the Romney campaign on only a portion of the spending. That transfer, also a result of heavy reliance on the major-donor fund, necessitates the further decentralization of a campaign that is already counting heavily on outside groups.

Indeed, Restore Our Future, the super PAC run by former Romney aides that has spent more than $65 million on ads, raised $7.5 million last month, including large amounts directly from corporations, such as $1 million from the Renco Group, a company active in mining and metals, and $250,000 from Penske, the automotive company with headquarters in Michigan.

A Republican super PAC, American Crossroads, raised $7 million last month, led by Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, who has now given a total of $17 million to Republicans this election cycle plus untold amounts to an affiliated nonprofit.

Priorities USA, the super PAC blessed by Mr. Obama, raised $4.7 million, led by $1 million from Mel Heifetz, a Philadelphia real estate developer and gay-rights advocate, and Jon Stryker, a New York architect and another gay-rights activist. The United Journeymen union gave $250,000, and the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers union gave $200,000.

The Romney and Obama campaigns declined to comment.

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