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Obama’s campaign cash haul trailing pace of ‘08

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“No matter how you look it, the numbers don’t lie,” said Sean Spicer, spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “The support for the president’s election is down by any account, and I think they are having trouble getting the coalition that propelled them to victory in 2008 back together based on the policies of the last four years.”

Potentially more worrisome for Team Obama, however, is how fast money is flying out the campaign door, the so-called “burn rate.”

Unlike the super PACs that have been filling the airwaves in GOP primary states, Mr. Obama’s campaign isn’t spending most of its money on TV and radio ads to reach actual voters. The bulk of its outlays have been for political consultants and his large campaign staff as well as telemarketing, direct-mail costs and online advertising, which usually includes a fundraising pitch. In 2011 and so far in 2012, the campaign has spent a combined $12.25 million on online advertising alone.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal this month, Karl Rove, a GOP strategist who was a senior adviser to Mr. Bush, said these fixed costs are particularly troublesome because they can’t be stopped on a dime like other campaign costs, such as a television ad buy or adjusting the size of phone banks.

“These are tougher [expenses] to unwind or delay,” Mr. Rove wrote. “Left unaltered, they generally lead to even more frantic efforts to both raise money and stop other spending.”

Mr. Rove also pointed to reports that the White House in early March told congressional Democrats not to expect any money for their campaigns from the Democratic National Committee and Obama for America this year. That money, they said, would be devoted exclusively to the president’s re-election.

Still ahead

Even so, Mr. Obama’s fundraising has far outpaced any of his likely Republican rivals, including Mr. Romney. But Democrats remain deeply concerned about the pro-GOP super PACs, the power of the ads they fund, and the Democrats’ inability so far to compete with them through independent groups of their own.

After blasting their formation and calling them a “threat to democracy,” Mr. Obama’s campaign has embraced them, recently announcing that many of his aides, as well as current and former members of his Cabinet, would appear at fundraisers for Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting him.

But Priorities USA Action has struggled to compete with its GOP counterparts. It reported raising just $2 million in February, half of which came from comedian Bill Maher, bringing its total raised for the election so far to nearly $6.5 million. That pales in comparison with Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Mr. Romney, which has spent $37.9 million against other Republicans so far in the GOP primary alone.

So far, all super PACs have raised a total of $153.82 million and spent $81.7 million — mainly to tear down other Republicans. Team Obama is bracing for an onslaught of negative ads from those same super PACs once the primary is over and the president becomes the main target in the general election.

About the Author
Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at

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