Obama, Romney engage in spending Cold War during presidential battle

Published: Saturday, June 23 2012 9:14 a.m. MDT

President Barack Obama speaks at a fundraising reception in Baltimore, Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are locked in a spending battle as the campaign season heats up, with Romney utilizing a Cold War spending strategy to reach voters and cripple his opponent.

"It's just like the Cold War," a Democratic strategist told Buzzfeed. "They're going to force Obama to spend himself into oblivion — while trying to peel off constituencies like the Eastern Bloc."

"There's no way they'll be able to keep up," a Republican operative said. "Our Super PACS are our Star Wars, if you will."

Although Obama's campaign has outspent Romney's campaign to date, the week of June 18 will be remembered as the week where Republican groups "dropped the advertising hammer" and began to close the financial gap, National Journal said Friday.

"If actions speak louder than words, Republicans are indicating they'll try to put several of the so-called Blue Wall states — states that have voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992 — into play," the article said. "This week alone, Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super PAC, and Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group funded in part by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, are spending a combined $1 million in Pennsylvania."

In 2011, Obama's campaign fundraising was smashing records, and reports said the campaign was aiming for a $1 billion fundraising haul. The Obama campaign now says it expects the president to become the first incumbent to be outspent by his opponent, and Republicans may become the first to hit the $1 billion mark instead.

As of March, Obama had raised $260.9 million compared to Romney's $122 million. However, the political action committees supporting both candidates have given Romney an edge in terms of money. The Romney-backing Restore Our Future Super PAC raised almost $5 million in May, for a total of $64 million so far, and American Crossroads raised $4.6 million. The Obama-supporting Priorities USA raised $4 million, The Washington Post reported.

Super PACs can raise and spend money without limits during elections, but are not allowed to coordinate with the candidates they are supporting.

The Obama reelection campaign spent more than $44.5 million in May, with $29 million going to an ad blitz in battleground states, the Times Leader reported. The spending outpaced his fundraising, which brought in $39.1 million. Romney's spending for May was $15.6 million, while Romney and the Republican party raised $76.8 million in May, nearly $17 million more than Obama and the Democratic National Committee.

"The president is learning the hard way that there is a finite number of million dollar-plus fundraisers that any candidate can have, and he has chewed up most of his opportunities," Karl Rove wrote at The Wall Street Journal. "The president's team was hoping for a repeat of 2008, when financial muscle made it possible to spread out the battlefield and make a (successful) play for more states. That won't happen this time. The Obama campaign is spending its money too fast. And Mr. Romney is successfully marshaling resources so his campaign can make the fall campaign competitive in every battleground state."

Romney's fundraising has given him the ability to tailor specific ads to specific states with his "First 100 Days" TV push. The Iowa ad focuses on budget deficits and the president's health care overhaul. The Ohio ad promises to stand up to China and repeal harmful energy regulation, while the Virginia ad mentions drilling off the coast to boost energy production and North Carolina focuses more heavily on the economy. Romney is also closing in on Obama in polls, forcing Obama to spend money to defend states that voted for him in 2008.

Obama is facing fundraising trouble as well with Priorities USA struggling to pull in donations, Politico reported in May. The bulk of Priorities USA Action's money came from labor groups such as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association PAC ($1 million) and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Pipe Fitting Industry ($250,000). In February, The Hill reported that lobbyists who have been barred from fundraising for the president are not donating to his super PAC instead.

"Did a great 'huzzah' go up among lobbyists when it was apparent that although we can't give to the Obama reelect directly, we can (give) to the super PAC that shared that goal? No," said Robert Raben, the president and founder of the Raben Group. "I do want the president to be reelected, but I already give a lot of money to congressional candidates."

Democrats may now expect to be outspent in the election, but they are still focused on the ultimate goal: the president's reelection.

"While we won't match the Republican attack machine dollar for dollar, as long as Democrats continue to step up, we will have the resources we need to make sure voters understand the devastating impact a Romney presidency will have on the middle class," Bill Burton, the co-founder of Priorities USA, told The Hill in May.

"We don't find any of this intimidating," another Obama donor said. "We will be prepared. If they think they're going to scare us, they haven't met us."

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