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Massive Surge of Republican Money in Last Ditch Effort to Sink Obama

Since October 17, the big GOP Superpacs appear to be outspending Priorities USA on media by at least three to one.

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Here is where the Ghost of 2000 begins to flit around. Not even GOP flacks dare suggest that small donations comprise the backbone of the Romney campaign. But the campaign and its allegedly independent Superpacs, such as Restore Our Future, burned through gigantic sums bulldozing the rest of the Republican field in the primaries.

As a result, until recently, the Romney campaign has been restocking, playing catch up to Obama’s well organized machine, which, be it noted, continues to bring in substantial donations even from Wall Street, though not on the scale of 2008. Along with the Obama camp’s vast expenditures earlier in the campaign to try to fix Romney’s image in electorate’s mind, this fact is the piece of evidence most commonly cited to disparage the importance of big money.

But it is plain wrong to suggest that Big Money is not talking in this campaign. As Johnston, Hager, and Jamieson noted, Gore’s final surge was fueled by relentlessly pounding away at Republican vulnerabilities on Social Security. Given the near unanimity this year among major donors that entitlements have to be cut after the election, however, that line of attack cannot really be exploited by Obama. And he has not. Despite Paul Ryan’s presence on the GOP ticket, the President’s campaign has reined in Biden and other Democrats who became aggressive on the issue. Social Security played little role in the three presidential debates; indeed, in the first one, Obama actually allowed that “I suspect that, on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position.” 


No less importantly, however, in the first 17 days of October (the most recent full reporting period), the Romney campaign finally surpassed Obama, in collections by the formal campaign and the Republican National Committee. Of course, it has been far ahead in Superpac funding all along.

And while the money rolled in for the campaign itself, fundraising by other giant Republican vehicles, such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works, and other groups has also been swelling.

In the campaign’s final stretch, it is impossible to pin down exactly who is spending how much or precisely where. Cash hoards and limited reporting requirements make that impossible. The situation changes literally every day and from day from hour to hour, as campaigns and Superpacs make more and more media buys of ads and transfer money around in complicated ways. There is also a lot of less heralded money sloshing about, ranging from still more Superpacs in formation to old fashioned 527 spending committees. We also expect the Republican edge in fundraising to grow in the final days.

But you don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing. Superpacs now report major media buys within 48 hours. Thus one can directly compare late spending by Priorities USA, the Obama Superpac, with Romney’s Restore Our Future, Crossroads, and the other leading GOP committees. (Both parties have other Superpacs in operation, but these are the leaders that, with the exception of Freedom Works, appear to be spending substantially on the presidential race, though reported targets always need to be taken with a grain of salt.)

We sifted through them up through October 29. What we find is remarkable. The Ghost of 2000 stretches before us in full terrifying view. Since October 17, the big GOP Superpacs appear to be outspending Priorities USA on media by at least three to one – perhaps a higher ratio than when Bush buried Gore. Those funds are almost certainly being concentrated on battleground states, even, possibly, on a handful of counties within each.

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