For the second straight month, President Obama struggled to match Mitt Romney’s prodigious fundraising efforts, deepening Democratic concerns that they will be severely outspent in the final stretch of the election.
According to the Obama campaign, the president’s re-election team, combined with the DNC, raised over $75 million in July from 761,000 people, including 201,000 new donors who had not given money in either the 2008 or 2012 cycle. The numbers are impressive, but Romney and the RNC raised an eye-popping $101.3 million and have $185 million cash on hand. July marks the second straight month Romney and the GOP cracked nine figures: They raised $106 million in June to Obama and the Democrats’ $71 million, mostly through the RNC’s victory fund and not the Romney campaign itself.
Democrats took June’s big numbers as a wake-up call, urging supports in countless fundraising e-mails and phone calls that without more early support, the Obama campaign could be outgunned by Republican cash. Keeping pace with Romney is especially important since Republicans are expected to enjoy a major advantage in ad spending by outside groups.
The Obama campaign is also spending money at a historically high rate as part of its strategy of building a large grassroots infrastructure and defining Romney with an early advertising blitz.
Despite the cash disadvantage, the Obama campaign enjoyed what was generally considered its best month as Romney struggled to deal with attacks on his Bain Capital career, his personal finances and a widely panned trip overseas in which he offended British and Palestinian officials. Polling in swing states during July showed Obama with a solid, if small, lead over Romney.
But the strength of Romney’s fundraising has the potential to change the dynamics of the race. The sheer scale of political spending — as much as $50 million combined on swing-state ads in just one week this month — is unprecedented, and it’s possible it might reach a saturation point in which ad dollars start to have diminishing effects.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.