When it comes to the latest campaign funding reports, The Washington Post’s blog The Fix has declared President Obama, Ron Paul and Sheldon Adelson winners, and Mitt Romney, his Restore Our Future super PAC, Jon Huntsman’s staff, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry losers.
FiveThirtyEight blog’s Nate Silver points out that the high cost of Romney’s Florida victory resulted in a negative $12.2 million cashflow, the worst January on record (according to the FEC database, which has kept track since 2000). “The previous record had been held by George W. Bush, who raised $2.0 million but spent $12.8 million in January [of 2000], for a net $10.8 million outflow.” He notes, however, that if adjusted for inflation, Bush’s total would have been larger than Romney’s.” He also points out one of Romney’s big fundraising failings:
One problem is that Mr. Romney has never done very well with small donors. In January, his campaign brought in just $1.2 million in un-itemized contributions, a category that covers donations of $200 or less. That total was the worst of the four remaining Republican campaigns; Mr. Santorum brought in $2.6 million in un-itemized contributions; Mr. Gingrich, $2.5 million; and Mr. Paul, $2.1 million.”
Benjy Sarlin, of Talking Points Memo, notes that a lack of smaller donors was a problem that also plagued Hillary Clinton. In February 2008 she was forced to shell out $5 million of her own money because her bigger donors were maxing out on the $2,500 limit that individuals are allowed to donate to a candidate’s campaign fund.
But … Romney has a weapon that no candidate had in 2008: Super PACs. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, those rich donors who want to help out Romney with more than $2,500 can cut a check as gaudy as they want to an independent group called Restore Our Future, which is run by his former staffers. And that’s exactly what they’re doing. Not only did Romney’s Super PAC outraise all its rivals in 2012, but the vast majority of the donations were over $100,000. Only in the last few weeks, with Sheldon Adelson cutting $5 million checks to Newt Gingrich ahead of competitive primaries, are his rivals beginning to compete.
The trouble with super PACs is that while they can help blanket the airwaves with attack ads, the campaign still needs to raise money to finance basic necessities like staff and travel. If things get tight there, Romney has another advantage his competitors don’t have: $200 million plus in personal assets. While Romney spent over $42 million of his own money on his 2008 bid, dipping into his own funds would be an embarrassing sign of weakness given that he long ago decided to rely on donors this time around.”
Meanwhile, Priorities USA, Obama’s super PAC, raised only $59K in January. Compare that with the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, which took in nearly $7 million. Many speculate that the paltry sum – most of it reportedly from a single donor – was part of the reason that President Obama reversed his position on super PAC fundraising earlier this month.
NPR’s it’s all politics blog summed it up nicely with a quote from the late conservative writer William F. Buckley, Jr.:
“Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive.”