Lost amid all the talk about millionaires influencing the 2012 election is a striking fact: The Republican primaries are shaping up as the cheapest and most financially depressed presidential nominating contests in years.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and the other Republicans vying to take on President Obama in November have raised and spent about half as much money as the GOP field did four years ago, campaign disclosure data show. The trend doesn’t stop there: Republicans in 2000 and Democrats in 2004 posted stronger financial numbers than this year’s crop of GOP challengers have.
Even adding this year’s spending by super PACs — a new kind of independent group that can raise millions of dollars at a time — the Republican contenders spent more cash in 2008 all on their own.
In all our howling about the undue influence of Super PACs, we've missed the story about why this is happening.
The totals also underscore a persistent enthusiasm problem that has dogged this year’s GOP presidential hopefuls, most of whom haven’t come close to raising as much money as the top candidates did in 2008.
And lest anyone accuse me of being insufficiently outraged about Super PACs, I agree 100% with Eggen on this.
Few expect the fundraising drought to last into the general-election campaign, which still appears likely to rank among the most expensive ever. Once the Republican nominee is chosen, most strategists predict, party donors will quickly rally around the candidate and produce a surge of money to go up against the Obama campaign. The surge will be augmented by money from super PACs and other outside groups, which will have an easier time raising money than they did in previous election cycles.
But lets face it...the Romney campaign has $ problems - the same ones Hillary Clinton faced when she ran against Obama in 2008. Big donors can't make up for the the shockingly small amount of Romney's fundraising that has come from small donors. Paul Waldman tells us why that's a problem.
It may be harder to find a hundred people who'll give $25 than that one donor who'll give the legal maximum of $2,500, but they give you something the fat cat doesn't: you can come back to them again and again and ask for more money, something the Obama campaign did very well in 2008. Once the fat cat maxes out to the campaign, he's done, and the only other way he can help is through super PACs.
And money raised by the Romney super PACs will be less influential than money raised by the campaigns. He will no doubt be able to find plenty of big donors who will give his super PAC a million bucks or so each. When a donor does that, the million bucks gets spent on TV ads and mailers, which is all well and good. But it doesn't support volunteers (no one is volunteering for a super PAC) who make phone calls and knock on doors, and multiple studies by political scientists in recent years have demonstrated that personal contact is far more persuasive than things like TV ads.
President Obama's most important advantage against Mitt Romney, his monied friends, and their Super PACs is us - and that means you. As Waldman puts it:
The message is that you are living in historic times, and history depends on you.
So let's get out there and make some history!