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Romney Sprints Ahead In Race For Cash

Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event in Bow, N.H., Friday. The campaigns have released their monthly financial reports, with Romney showing an advantage over President Obama.
Charles Dharapak
Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event in Bow, N.H., Friday. The campaigns have released their monthly financial reports, with Romney showing an advantage over President Obama.

The presidential campaign of Republican Mitt Romney surged ahead of President Obama last month in fundraising efforts. While Obama continued to get more money from small donors, those who give $200 or less, Romney showed new strength there. Also, big donors have enabled Romney to quickly build a strong cash reserve.

At first glance, it seems that Obama has a nice cushion of cash. Obama for America, his campaign committee, reported almost $98 million cash-on-hand, compared to less than $23 million in the kitty at Romney for President.

But that's not the whole story. Spending far outstripped fundraising last month on the Obama campaign, according to monthly reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

At the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Bob Biersack compares 2012 with the contest four years ago, between Obama and Sen. John McCain.

"The Obama campaign's about $42 .5 million behind where they were at the same time in 2008. Romney's about $12.5 million ahead of where McCain was through June of 2008," he says.

The trend is even more dramatic when you look across the breadth of the Obama and Romney organizations.

Where The Money Flows

Financially speaking, a presidential campaign is a complex thing. The money flows through a candidate committee, a national party committee and ad hoc accounts called joint fundraising committees.

FEC records show that Romney, working through his joint fundraising committee, has swept up huge sums of cash since early April, when he locked up the Republican nomination. The result: An NPR analysis shows that Romney finished June with $23 million more cash-on-hand than Obama.

"There's been a lot of growth in the Romney campaign as the nomination got settled," Biersack says, "and it's coming in lots of different directions, both from big donors to the joint committees, but also in small contributions, too."

On the most visible battlefront, television, the Obama campaign outspent Romney last month $38 million to $10 million.

In one ad, the Obama campaign gave Iowa voters its interpretation of Romney's career as a venture capitalist: "Does Iowa really want an outsourcer-in-chief in the White House?"

Romney's campaign had done little on TV to answer the charges.

This week, speaking to a reporter from the Toledo Blade, Romney essentially pleaded poverty. He said his campaign has spent most of its available cash in the primaries — and some of the reserves are dollars that legally cannot be spent until the fall campaign.

SuperAID To The Rescue

But Romney has friends coming to help. The Crossroads organization, co-founded by GOP consultant Karl Rove, spent $7.3 million last month on ads against Obama. They came from the so-called social welfare wing of the organization, Crossroads GPS, where the donors' names are kept secret.

Then last week, the superPAC-side of the organization, American Crossroads, launched a $9 million wave of ads attacking the president for attacking Romney.

"We saw an opportunity not just to defend Mitt Romney, but also to start to drive home a new narrative," says Steven Law, president of both Crossroads groups.

That narrative questions the president's character.

"Not just that President Obama hasn't done the job that people had hoped on the economy, but he hasn't been the kind of leader that people had hoped when they voted for him," Law says.

Meanwhile, another superPAC supporting Romney had its best fundraising month ever. Restore Our Future, which is run by several former Romney aides, reported raising nearly $21 million. Ten million of it came from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. Also giving $1 million or more were Texas homebuilder Bob Perry and Florida energy billionaire Bill Koch.

Earlier this year, Restore Our Future spent $42 million demolishing Romney's opponents in the primaries. Now, it has nearly $22 million in the bank, ready for the general election campaign.

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Peter Overby has covered Washington power, money, and influence since a foresighted NPR editor created the beat in 1994.