At the beginning of the election, Democrats publicly agonized that outside campaign spending would allow stealthy Republican groups to overwhelm underfunded Democratic candidates.
None of the Democrats’ nightmares came to fruition. The Republicans’ much-feared financial edge never materialized in the presidential campaign, as President Obama and his allies have been outspending Mitt Romney and outside groups by a healthy margin down the home stretch.
Far from creating an uneven playing field, the influx of super PAC money that flowed from the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling has allowed Romney to avoid getting buried. Without outside assistance, Obama would hold a massive financial edge.
Obama and his allies are on track to raise nearly $1 billion. His campaign has outspent Romney’s in the battleground states $306 million to $133 million, according to the Hotline ad tracker. Yet when outside groups are factored in, the margin is much closer, with Romney and allies holding a $396.7 million to $363.2 million edge.
If the goal of campaign finance reform is to encourage spending parity between the two sides, super PACs have pulled it off. But that is not the whole story. Obama and his allies have managed to overwhelm the opposition on television because they’re positioned to utilize money in their own coffers and less dependent on outside groups. There’s no sign that super PAC money has given Romney any edge on the airwaves.
This year’s election reminds me of this year’s baseball season, where teams with some of the lowest payrolls made the playoffs, while many deep-spending franchises fell short. Money only goes so far. Knowing how to spend it wisely is much more important. Read more
—Josh Kraushaar, Hotline Executive Editor
P.S. — Later this month, National Journal magazine will have a full report on the players who could fill more than 20 key posts in the next administration. And we want your input, too. Please take a minute to tell us who’s in -- or should be in -- the running. Click here to put an Obama dream team together or click here to build Romney’s all-star administration. The sooner you click, the better.
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT
Team Romney Looking for Knockout by Ryan
[The Hill, 10/10/12] Reporter Justin Sink talked to the only other person who has publicly debated Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Democrat Lydia Spottswood, in advance of the Ryan-Biden debate on Thursday. The two faced off in a 1998 House race election. She said it would be a mistake to underestimate his debating skills.
Biden-Ryan Debate Highlights Catholic Political Divide
[Los Angeles Times, 10/9/12] Like the nation at large, Catholics -- once strongly associated with the Democratic Party -- are almost evenly divided between Obama and Romney. It would be hard to find better representatives of the two poles of American Catholicism than their running mates, who are deeply steeped in their faith and yet disagree on issues crucial to the church and society.
Ann Romney: Mitt Did Not Lie
[National Journal, 10/10/12] In a wide-ranging Fox News interview on Wednesday, Ann Romney defended her husband against charges from Obama’s campaign that he lied in his responses during last week’s debate.
Obama on Debate: 'I Was Just Too Polite'
[Washington Post, 10/10/12] President Obama, speaking with radio host Tom Joyner on Wednesday, said that the biggest problem he had during the debate was that he “was just too polite.” He said that in the Oct. 16 debate, there will be “a little more activity.”
Conversation Nation: Romney Chatter Grows More Positive After Debate
[National Journal, 10/10/12] Romney’s resurgence and Obama’s slump in the week following their first debate are reflected in the latest Conversation Nation poll, conducted by National Journal and the Keller Fay Group. Positive conversations about Romney increased by 11 percentage points and negative conversations dropped 5 points.
Angst Grows Among Obama Supporters
[Politico, 10/10/12] The quick shift in poll numbers in the week after the debate illustrates the volatility in the race in general. Romney’s surge, especially among previously Obama-friendly subgroups, suggests a more fluid electorate -- a dangerous dynamic for an Obama campaign that has trumpeted the president’s solid lead in battleground states.
6 Foreign Policy Flashpoints That Could Matter in November
[National Journal, 10/10/12] Unrest in Libya is just one of the simmering conflicts worldwide that could erupt into a crisis between now and the election, as National Journal's Sophie Quinton writes. Among others events that could impact the presidential race: Israel strikes Iranian nuclear facilities or NATO takes military action against Syria.
Romney: Abortion Not on My Agenda
[Des Moines Register, 10/9/12] Romney told the Iowa paper’s editorial board on Tuesday that he has no plans for abortion legislation if elected president, a position that is more moderate than he has been in the past. The Obama camp responded on Wednesday, saying Romney is being misleading on the issue.
Mapping Presidential Mega-Markets
[Hotline On Call, 10/10/12] About half the money being poured into television advertising during the presidential race is being spent in just 15 media markets. Reid Wilson and Peter Bell map out the areas where political advertising has exceeded $10 million.
Romney’s Unusual In-House Ad Strategy
[Politico, 10/9/12] The Romney campaign has an unusual television ad-buying strategy that is costing the campaign much more than the Obama campaign is paying. Instead of outsourcing ad reservations, like other campaigns, Team Romney does all the buying in-house headed by one person.
Slain SEAL's Mother Condemns Romney
[National Journal, 10/10/12] The mother of a Navy SEAL killed in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya criticized Mitt Romney for mentioning her son on the campaign trail, Boston’s WHDH-7 reported.
Obama Campaign Stands by Big Bird Ad
[National Journal, 10/10/12] Following a request by PBS for the Obama camp to take down its new attack ad featuring Big Bird, the campaign appears to be standing by the spot. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board mocked Obama’s decision to feature Big Bird.
Jack Welch Op-Ed: I Was Right to Question Jobs Numbers
[Wall Street Journal, 10/10/12] Former General Electric Chairman Jack Welch defended his skeptical response to the latest jobs report in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Wednesday, saying that the newest unemployment numbers are “downright implausible” because the economy would have to have grown at “breakneck speed.”
The VP Debate Drinking Game
[National Journal, 10/10/12] Drink when Joe Biden compliments Mitt Romney, saying he's "articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," or some combination thereof. Drink when Paul Ryan is accidentally referred to as the Republican presidential nominee, including by himself. Drink when anyone says the word "wonk."