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Clark Professor: Obama Can Overcome Fundraising Gap

Saturday, August 11, 2012

 

Former Mass. Governor, Mitt Romney, has out-fundraised President Obama for three months, and has a $26 million lead as of July. Romney has taken the lead in donations from some key states, including Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia, and with those swing states being so crucial in this election, funding is equally as important in these areas.

“Romney is benefiting right now by getting contributions from people who had supported other Republican candidates during the primaries or who had been waiting to give until after the Republican nomination was decided,” said Clark professor of political science, Robert Boatright.

He added that Obama would not have won the 2008 election had he not been able to out-fundraise the opposition, and this pattern was also seen in 2004. “Bush raised money steadily through the year but John Kerry was able to outraise Bush during the summer once Democratic donors started to focus on the general election,” he said.

Money from Massachusetts

While Romney may have the lead in some key swing states and an overall advantage in funding over Obama right now, Boatright says that this lead won’t mean a sure victory.

According to OpenSecrets.com, Obama has raised a cool $7,931,353 in the Commonwealth, while Romney has only banked $5,140,437 in the state he previously governed.

How Much Cash on Hand Contributes

While Obama’s $35 million of donations for June is gathered by counting money raised by the candidates, the party committees and Super PACs supporting the candidate, Boatright says something is left out.

“Using that measurement, he (Obama) was outraised by about $25 million in July. There are two important things that he doesn't mention in the email,” he said. “First, he still has a substantial advantage in cash-on-hand. If you look just at what the candidates themselves have raised – not the parties or Super PACs – Obama has raised twice as much money as Romney, $300 million to $150 million, and has over four times as much money on hand, $100 million versus a little less than $25 million.”

Boatright says this is all a show of how the campaigns are spending their funds.

“That's because Romney has had to spend most of his money as soon as he gets it while Obama was able to raise money last year and earlier this year and wait to spend it until he knew who would win the Republican nomination,” he said.

Money and the Election

Boatright says that without his massive amount of fundraising in 2008, Obama wouldn’t have won.

“Obama would not have won in 2008 had he not been able to substantially outraise Hillary Clinton and McCain,” he said. “On the other hand, he was able to outraise them because he was a better candidate. So money is usually a consequence of being a good candidate, not a cause.”

An Unusual Trait

This year’s election, he says, has one key difference which will undoubtedly affect the finances of the candidates.

“I think the unusual factor about this year as compared to most other recent elections is that there are very few undecided voters,” Boatright said. “The polls have been basically flat ever since Romney became the de facto nominee. Obama has had between a one and four percentage point lead consistently since April, regardless of how much money is being spent by either side. So there's no evidence yet that advertising or any other expenditures are really making any difference.”

What We Will Learn from This Election

Boatright said that one thing is clear in this year’s election – that money for candidates is better than money for parties or outside groups spending it on their behalf.

“If you're running for President, you want your campaign to be in charge of how that money is spent. Much of Romney's advantage has come from the large contributions going to his Super PAC,” he said. “The Super PAC can spend money running ads criticizing Obama but Romney cannot directly communicate with the PAC about what he would like it to say, what he is doing with his money, or where the PAC should spend money.”

Boatright used this argument to say that a dollar raised by a Super PAC or a party committee is less valuable to a candidate than money he has raised himself.

“Obama has done much better than Romney at raising ‘hard money’ contributions for his own campaign fund,” he said. Whether his small-dollar campaign fundraising trumps Romney's large donor advantage is something we'll find out in November.” 

 

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