Analysts on the Campaigns' Spending

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - August 7, 2012

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JUDY WOODRUFF: We are three months away from Election Day, and the political money race is heating up. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign announced yesterday that, along with the Republican National Committee and state party efforts, it raised $101 million in the month of July.

The Republicans had nearly $186 million in the bank as of July 31. President Obama's reelection campaign said it raised more than $75 million in July but didn't disclose how much cash it has on hand.

That's the third month in a row the Romney team has outraised the president's. However, between January and June, Mr. Obama outspent his GOP rival $400 million to $131 million.

Well, to help sort through what all the numbers mean, we are joined by Rick Davis, who served as Republican John McCain's national campaign manager in 2000 and again in 2008. He is now chief operating officer at Pegasus Capital Advisors.

And Mo Elleithee, he's a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, a D.C.-based political consulting firm. He worked on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid.

And, gentlemen, we thank you both. It's good to see both of you.

So, Mo, Mo Elleithee, let me start with you. Why is the president having a harder time this year raising money? In 2008, he raised over $750 million.

MO ELLEITHEE, democratic strategist: Yes. Well, I don't think he is having a hard time raising money. He is still raising a significant amount of money.

But there's no question that the new rules of the game, I think, are absolutely benefiting the Republicans. Yes, Mitt Romney's outraising him. And -- but when you are looking at the amount that the Obama campaign versus the Romney campaign are raising, they are both going to be very competitive.

Neither one of these guys is going to run out of money. What really stacks the deck against the president are these super PACs and all the outside money that is coming into the system and coming into the game. And that should put a little bit of fear and panic into Democrats.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Rick Davis, how fearful and panicked should the Democrats be?

RICK DAVIS, former John McCain campaign manager: Well, certainly, the tone has changed a lot from early remarks by the Obama campaign, how they were going to raise a billion dollars and be the first campaign in history to cross that huge mark.

And, certainly, I never thought that was any great shakes. I mean, Obama outraised us in 2008 by a significant margin and spent almost 3-1, and in some states 4-1, against us on television.

So, this is quite a different table. And I think that it's an indication of some problems within the Obama electorate. Raising money is some indication of your level of support out in the country. And the fact that Obama is not going to have an advantage for fundraising is the first time since 2011 that he hasn't outspent his opponent.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mo Elleithee, what about that? Who is and who isn't giving to the Obama campaign and to the Romney campaign? Do we have a sense of the portrait of who is writing checks this year?


One area where I think I would differ slightly from Rick is -- or actually agree with him is that giving does indicate a certain amount of support. And when you look at the small grassroots donations that the Obama campaign is receiving, there's no question a vast majority -- or a significant amount of his money is coming from small donors.

The majority of his donors are people that have given $200 or less. And that can't be said about the Republican Party. And I read some astonishing figure on the way over here about how -- I think it's like 17 -- or 80-some percent of all the money that has been given in this election campaign is coming from just a very, very, very small group of people. That says a lot about the shifting paradigm of campaign fundraising.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Rick Davis, it is a fact that we do hear a lot about these fat cats, to use the term, millionaires, billionaires, who are giving money to both campaigns. Governor Romney does seem to be benefiting from those big checks going to the super PACs, doesn't he?

RICK DAVIS: Well, setting super PACs aside, basically aligning the two campaigns' fundraising, the thing you have to remember is Barack Obama has raised more fat cat money per capita than Mitt Romney has. Barack Obama raised more money than Mitt Romney has.

And so you can make a lot of comparisons, but when you look at how many fat cats have donated to any one campaign, Barack Obama owns that title. And the fact that you have outside spending is not something new. It's been happening really over the last 20 years. And the facts are that Barack Obama in 2008 had an opportunity to fall under the campaign finance rules.

He actually had an agreement with John McCain to do so and then broke his agreement when he realized, oh, I can raise more money this time than I ever thought wildly possible. So, if anybody has undermined the campaign finance system more than any other individual, it's probably Barack Obama.

So it's kind of funny now that he would start complaining about it. My sense is he probably protests too much.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You want to respond to that now?

MO ELLEITHEE: Yes. Yes, there's been outside spending for 20-some years, but never at this level.

Never -- the Citizens United court case just completely scrambled the playing field. It changed the dynamic completely. And there's no question that's benefiting the Republicans in this election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The other thing I want to ask both of you about, Mo Elleithee, is the fact that the Obama campaign is, to coin a term, burning through the money that it has at a lot -- at a much higher rate than the Romney camp, $400 million in the first half of the year vs. $130 million.

What are they spending that money on?

MO ELLEITHEE: Well, I think on two things primary, one, message and, two, organization. Organization, they -- they made early investments in the key battleground states to put organizers on the ground, set up field offices.

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