As Barack Obama cast a vote for himself in Illinois Thursday, his wallet was noticeably lighter. That's because, this time around, Republicans are winning the money game. It was a different story four years ago when Mr. Obama broke with precedent and turned down matching funds so he could raise unlimited cash for his campaign. In 2012, Mitt Romney became the first Republican to turn down Uncle Sam's handout, and Republicans have done well in their efforts to adapt.
On the last leg of the race, the Republican National Committee (RNC) finds itself ahead of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). According to filings released Thursday, the RNC raised $19.8 million from Oct. 1-17 and has $67.6 million cash on hand. By contrast, the DNC finds itself an estimated $16 million in the red, based on last month's numbers.
"Two years ago, the DNC was thriving and the RNC had been left for dead," said RNC spokesman Sean Spicer. "Now it's a role reversal for the incumbent party. The DNC is essentially bankrupt. Despite all of the glitz and glam of Hollywood events, the support and enthusiasm on their side is just not coming in." A Democratic Party official explained the spending was intentionally front-loaded to fund their ground game.
All this extra money in the GOP coffers helps Mitt Romney, and Republicans are using their party advantage to help win the battle of the airwaves.
National political parties play a major role in funding TV ads, events and staff. The RNC has spent $20 million of the allowable $21.6 million so far on "coordinated ads," which qualify for the lowest available TV ad rates. A separate RNC division has spent $34.4 million to date on "independent expenditure ads," which are unlimited, but cost the prevailing market rate and can't be coordinated with the campaigns.
There's a third type of "hybrid" ad that promotes party-building in general or attacks the other party, which also gets the candidate rate and can be split 50-50 with the campaign. In this cycle, the RNC has spent about $5 million on hybrids, mostly on Spanish-language stations. The DNC has not spent any money on TV since August, but a spokesman said this was the plan all along.
The RNC has also been able to make the Romney campaign dollars go further by picking up the tab for staff salaries and events that support the entire party ticket. The DNC lacks the cash to help out the Obama campaign's effort.
In the final days, the presidential candidates need to throw everything they have financially into their effort. Mr. Obama's poor performance since the first debate has only made it harder for Democrats to convince donors to send their hard-earned money to the DNC. If Mr. Obama can't solve his own party's monetary woes, he's not likely to have any more success in addressing the country's.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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