Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had a financial advantage over President Barack Obama entering the final weeks of a campaign that polls of likely voters show as a dead heat.
The final campaign finance reports before the Nov. 6 election showed that Romney, the Republican National Committee and super-political action committees backing his candidacy raised just short of $1 billion through Oct. 17. That’s about the same amount as Obama, the Democratic National Committee and his allied super-PAC combined.
Romney and his allies entered the last three weeks of the campaign with $151 million to spend -- $50 million per week -- while Obama and the Democrats had $114 million, according to reports filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission.
“Obama’s campaign bet on their ability to define Romney during the summer season, and outspent him by a large margin early on,” said Rogan Kersh, a campaign-finance specialist and provost at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Romney’s team guessed that the final two weeks would decide the race, and saved funds accordingly. If the race stays close, Romney’s financial advantage could be a decisive factor.”
Through party and super-PAC fundraising, Romney prevented a repeat of the financial edge Obama held four years ago, when the Democratic nominee and the DNC brought in more than $1 billion while Republican John McCain and the RNC raised less than $780 million.
The reports followed an NBC News/Wall Street Journal nationwide survey of likely voters released Oct. 21 that showed the race tied at 47 percent.
The campaign finance picture has shifted since the 2008 race. Super-PACs, which can take in unlimited amounts of money to spend independently of a campaign, didn’t appear until 2010, a byproduct of a Supreme Court decision that year removing restrictions on independent political spending by corporations and unions. Unlike McCain four years ago, Romney declined federal funding for the general election.
During the first 17 days of this month, Obama reported raising $77.3 million, with $22.5 million of that coming from a joint fundraising committee with the DNC. That brought his fundraising total to more than $644 million. He has spent more than $552 million, including $82.9 million from Oct. 1-17. As of Oct. 17, he had $93.7 million to spend.
Obama took in more than $100,000 from employees of Microsoft Corp. and roughly $95,000 from employees of Google Inc., according to a computer analysis of FEC data. They are his top two sources of contributions for his re-election from corporate employees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks campaign giving.
Romney raised $51.8 million from Oct. 1-17, including $12.8 million transferred from a joint fundraising committee with the RNC, and his campaign entered the final three weeks of the race with $52.7 million to spend.
The former Massachusetts governor has now raised more than $413 million, including a $20 million loan he took to cover campaign spending until his formal nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, in August. He has paid down $17 million of that loan, including $2 million this month.
As he has throughout the campaign, Romney relied on donors in the financial industry. Bank of America Corp. employees gave more than $77,000, while those working for FMR LLC, the parent company of Fidelity Investments, donated more than $50,000, the computer analysis showed.
Obama spent an estimated $65 million on 97,170 ads in 57 markets during the first three weeks of October, according to data from Kantar Media’s CMAG that was analyzed by the Wesleyan Media Project at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Romney spent an estimated $30 million to run 42,937 ads in 50 television markets from Oct. 1-21, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.
The Obama campaign transferred more than $14 million to 21 state parties, including $3.1 million to Ohio, $2.3 million to Colorado, $2.1 million to Florida, $1.4 million to Iowa and $1.2 million to Nevada. An NBC News/Washington Post/Marist poll released yesterday put Obama ahead by 3 points in Nevada, 50 percent to 47 percent, and tied with Romney in Colorado at 48 percent.
For the general election, Obama has spent $239 million on 460,536 ads, while Romney spent $92 million on 169,747 spots.
Romney reported spending $62.3 million, including the $2 million repayment, and now has spent more than $360 million. He also got a boost from the Restore Our Future super-PAC, which took in $20.2 million from Oct. 1-17, bringing its total to $131.7 million, and spent $12 million on ads during the first 17 days of October. It had $24.2 million in the bank as of Oct. 17.
Restore Our Future announced on Oct. 23 that it would spend $17.7 million on ads in 10 states -- Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin -- that political analysts of both parties say will help decide the presidential race. More than half the money -- $9.9 million -- will be spent in Florida, Ohio and Virginia, the group said.
Casino executive Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, each contributed $5 million to the super-PAC. The Adelsons’ combined donation of $10 million brought to $20 million the amount that the chairman and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and his wife have given to Restore Our Future.
Donors of $1 million to Restore Our Future included Julian Robertson, chief executive officer of the New York-based hedge fund Tiger Management LLC; and Harold Simmons, chairman of Dallas-based Contran Corp., bringing his total to $2.3 million.
American Crossroads, a separate pro-Romney super-PAC founded with the help of Karl Rove, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, raised $11.7 million from Oct. 1-17, bringing its total to $80 million. It spent $33.1 million on ads and had $6.4 million in the bank as of Oct. 17.
Simmons gave another $4 million, bringing his total to $17.5 million, and Houston homebuilder Bob Perry contributed $1 million and has now given $7.5 million to the super-PAC.
The pro-Obama super-PAC, Priorities USA Action, brought in $13 million, including $1 million apiece from investor George Soros, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, LinkedIn Corp. chairman Reid Garrett Hoffman, and Mark Pincus, the chief executive officer of Zynga Inc., the San Francisco-based creator of the online game Farmville. The painters’ union also contributed $1 million and the American Federation of Teachers donated $750,000.
Priorities USA Action has now raised $64 million. It spent $9.4 million on ads from Oct. 1-17 and had $10.1 million in the bank.