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Romney’s Boston-based campaign is a fraction of the size of Obama‘s, although its organization dwarfs its Republican competitors. With around 100 paid staffers, Romney has spent more than $180,000 on rent and utilities since early January in 16 states from Massachusetts to Utah, records show.

Santorum, whose national headquarters was technically a post office box until this month, spent just $19,000 since the beginning of the year on rent-related expenses.

Romney’s ability to compete against Obama’s growing organization has become a selling point on the trail.

“As Republican primary voters in Illinois, we have an opportunity to look at the field of candidates, and look at them and say, ‘Who can go toe to toe not just with Barack Obama, but the Chicago machine that is his operation?’” Rep. Aaron Schock, a top Romney supporter in the state, said recently. “We cannot afford to nominate someone on our ticket who cannot withstand the barrage, who does not have the organizational strength and fortitude to go toe to toe with Barack Obama.”

In some ways, Obama’s massive campaign is part of what drives supporters to give money to super PACs in the first place.

“As a general rule, the big institutional money goes inordinately to incumbents regardless of party, while outside money plays the role of balancing out the party in power or stopping a specific initiative,” said Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for American Crossroads, the Republican super PAC.

GOP-leaning super PACs have spent more than $50 million on TV ads this election. Crossroads is largely waiting until the general election to spend its money.

Whatever the case, the Democrats’ current financial advantage is something Obama’s campaign isn’t taking for granted. Obama changed course last month in his criticism of super PACs and began encouraging big-money supporters to give to Priorities USA Action, an independent group working in his favor and run by a former aide.

The Republican Party opened offices in three states this month, with plans to expand to four other states in April.

Peoples reported from Chicago.