- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 21, 2012

The presidential candidates are as closely matched in cash as they are in the polls, new disclosures show, adding pressure for both candidates to raise money at a breakneck speed even as their attention is most needed to court voters in swing states.

With two weeks before Election Day, Mitt Romney’s campaign and the Republican National Committee had 50 percent more money in the bank than President Obama and his party — an advantage of $55 million — according to filings detailing the campaigns’ and parties’ fiscal standing as of Oct. 1.

While the Romney lead offsets the fundraising juggernaut Mr. Obama assembled and used to bury John McCain in 2008, it also results from restrained spending by the Republican candidate, who has opted for a strategy heavy on late spending.

Mr. Obama spent $51 million more on advertising last month, with much of that money going toward pre-purchased ads for this month, restoring a parity in cash on hand entering the final weeks of the campaign.

The Republican National Committee and Romney campaign had $183 million on hand at the beginning of this month, and $15 million in debts. The Democrats had $149 million in the bank and $35 million in debts.

Nearly 400,000 people who have given at least $200 this cycle gave to Mr. Obama last month, three times more than gave to Mr. Romney. But Mr. Romney raised twice as much as Mr. Obama from donors giving $10,000 or more. Those donations accounted for $95 million of the $170 million Team Romney raised last month, and accounted for $53 million of the $181 million Team Obama raised.

Mr. Romney and the Republican National Committee has 650 staffers, and as he did last month, he gave massive bonuses to seven top staffers, paying political director Rich Beeson $44,000 in September alone in bonuses that were coupled to electoral wins. Mr. Obama’s organization has 1,000 staffers.

Though the figures were released this weekend, the cash on hand figures could have changed significantly since Oct. 1, with both campaigns making all-out daily pleas for donations.

Mr. Romney has raised $8.5 million from donors giving $1,000 each or more in recent days, according to special disclosures made for large, last-minute donations, showing that not all wealthy supporters already gave the legal maximum. Mr. Obama has reported only $100,000 in such major gifts, but thanks to a reliance on small donors, had his best fundraising day ever Oct. 17, according to ABC News.

The Romney campaign has had a much smaller broadcast footprint in recent weeks though and it may have trouble catching up.

Mr. Romney spent $37 million on broadcast media last month, compared to $88 million for Mr. Obama, including prepurchased ads. Typical among Mr. Obama’s September buys, for example, was an $800,000 purchase in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area that spans from Oct. 2 through the day before the election.

Mr. Romney’s September purchases carried him only as far as the first week of October on the airwaves, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) disclosures indicate.

The penny-pinching spending by the Romney campaign raises questions about when it will begin spending in earnest. Even as fundraising pleas from Democrats warned of “Romney and [Karl] Rove’s plan to bury us with attack ads,” real-time FCC disclosures show no significant surge as of Friday.

In the nation’s top 50 markets, he currently has only about 20 ad buys that run through next week, totaling roughly $2.5 million, mostly in Miami, Denver and Las Vegas. Though the Romney campaign has bought ads at the last minute, that could be much more difficult with the airwaves saturated by other political groups in the days before the election.

Mr. Obama, for his part, is already locked in with nearly 200 ad buys running through next week totaling roughly $25 million, and has continued to make at least 10 new buys a day.

The Romney advertising strategy puzzled observers and could compound complications that arise from Mr. Romney’s reliance on large donors, which has caused much of the money he has raised to go to party committees with higher contribution caps rather than his campaign.

The parties are largely barred from coordination with the campaigns, and with the campaign making purchases at the last minute, other groups have no way of knowing where they should focus their efforts, and when.

• Luke Rosiak can be reached at lrosiak@washingtontimes.com.

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