The latest news of the campaigns’ cash on hand is telling: Mitt Romney is not only very good at raising money, he’s very frugal in spending it.
Reports indicate that despite President Obama holding a record number of fundraisers while in office (nearly twice that of the next president on the list), the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee are significantly financially better off than their Democratic counterparts. From Reuters:
Romney, the Republican National Committee and the Victory Fund they use jointly said they had $186 million left in cash on hand at the end of July. Disclosures filed on Monday showed Obama, the Democratic National Committee and their own joint funds having a total of $127 million left in cash on hand.
That money is an important gauge of firepower saved up for future advertising or investments in hiring, offices and events.
Why the discrepancy? It’s true that some funds are inaccessible to Mitt until he’s the official GOP nominee. But still, why such a difference when there wasn’t even a primary battle on the Democrat side? First, Jane Mayer in the New Yorker suggests President Obama doesn’t seem to relish fundraising, particularly from wealthy donors.
Ms. Mayer suggests an altruism on the part of Democrats holds them back from doing the same sort of fundraising the GOP does, particularly from, in a youthful Obama’s words, “the enemy” (big business / Wall Street). It’s clear the Obama camp and the left views money and those that possess it with some level of disdain. And as Mitt says, if you vilify something you may very well end up with less of it. Lest you be fooled, however, into believing Ms. Mayer’s suggestion that all the left’s motives are pure, and therefore the right’s are not, Matthew Continetti in the Free Beacon deconstructs Ms. Mayer’s thesis, calling it the “biggest myth of 2012″ that Democrat donors don’t expect or receive some form of payback from their politicians. Mr. Continetti’s piece is worth a read. Perhaps it’s not progressive altruism that keeps the Obama campaign from raising funds as much as it’s that Obama’s track record is now a limiting factor.
Mayer writes that Obama and the DNC have $127 million on hand—Romney and the RNC have $186 million—not because Obama for America has burned through cash at a remarkable rate in an attempt to define Romney negatively, but because rich liberals want to feel “a sense of intimacy with the president” (this was not a problem for Bill Clinton). Obama however, unlike the only Democrat since FDR to win reelection, keeps his distance from wealthy contributors. Why? Mayer says Obama “may be less awed by wealth than others” in part because he “continues to see economic success as the result of many factors besides individual effort.” The donors didn’t build that, in other words.
Mayer seems to have gullibly accepted the administration’s self-serving explanation for the drop-off in support, a fairy-tale that flatters Obama’s sense of intellectual and moral superiority while making Democratic donors look like immature crybabies.
Regardless of whether Obama doesn’t like it, agree with it or is just plain unable to pull it off this second time around, what remains clear is that President Obama has not been as successful recently in raising funds as Mitt has. Now that candidate Obama has had four years in power, his ability to effect hope and change isn’t selling as well on either the right or the left.
On the spending side, President Obama’s team has bled $120 million trying to throw mud at Mitt, but are worse off for it. Says John Podhoretz of the New York Post:
Chicago spent an astounding $120 million over the summer, much of it on negative ads targeting Romney personally, and almost all of it in 12 battleground states. To give you a sense of how much spending that is, the McCain campaign in 2008 spent a mere $75 million in the general election against Obama in all 50 states.
Though Romney has certainly been bloodied a bit — we all know how he won’t release a lot of his tax returns — the polling from those states and nationally suggests he’s suffered mere flesh wounds. We won’t really know if the Obama campaign managed to cut deeply enough to cause a lingering infection until the general election campaign is in full swing.
But if the infection doesn’t materialize, that will mean the Obama campaign spent tens and tens of millions for nothing. On June 23, Obama was up in the RCP average by 2.4 points. Yesterday, two months later, 1 point. All that spending, and Romney’s position actually improved.
A check of RealClearPolitics today confirms that Mitt stands 1 point ahead in the latest Fox News poll, and the aggregate of polls gives Obama a less than one point advantage.
One thing not lost on many is that in all this Obama spending, we still don’t really know exactly what Obama’s proposals are for a second term. So says Kimberly Strassel in the Wall Street Journal:
President Obama has a reputation for talking, but not necessarily for saying much. He has achieved new levels of vagueness this election season. Beyond repeating that he’s in favor of making the “rich” pay for more government “investment,” he hasn’t offered a single new idea for a second term. This is deliberate.
The core of the Obama strategy is to make Americans worry that whatever Mitt Romney does, it will be worse. That’s a harder case for Mr. Obama to make if he is himself proposing change. And so the Obama pitch is that this election is a choice between stability (giving Mr. Obama four more years to let his policies finally work) and upheaval (giving Mr. Romney four years to re-ruin the nation).
The pitch is profoundly dishonest. While the choice between four more years of Obama status quo and Mr. Romney is certainly vivid, it isn’t accurate. The real contrast is between Mr. Romney’s and Mr. Obama’s future plans. And while the president hasn’t revealed what those plans are, there is plenty of evidence for what a second term would look like.
The remainder of Ms. Strassel’s article is a good read, if scary. Despite not telling us what he plans to do, Obama’s intentions are legible: he would take his re-election as a mandate to increase taxes, fully implement Obamacare and, since he would likely still be at odds with Congress, to perfect the constitutionally-questionable techniques of using executive orders to get around the legislative branch. Despite losing our AAA credit rating, we should expect more deficit spending and more demands everyone pay their “fair share” of programs the Democrats like. Ms. Strassel continues:
Let’s dispense with the obvious: An Obama second term will be foremost about higher taxes and greater spending. The president has been clear about the former and will consider victory in November a mandate to raise taxes on higher-income Americans and small businesses—at the least.
Meanwhile, no matter how the coming budget sequester sorts out, nobody should forget why it came into being: It was the result of Mr. Obama’s refusal to consider any real changes to Social Security or Medicare. There will be no reason to budge in a second term. Absent reform to these drivers of debt, and given Mr. Obama’s ambitions to further “invest” in education, energy and infrastructure, a second term means proposals for even broader and bigger tax hikes—and not just for his favorite targets. Continued and growing deficits are likely as well.
Some of the foregoing is economically troubling, and the rest is downright worrisome for the health of our republic. Meanwhile, the nation’s problems are so severe that convincing the country to stick with a “steady” status quo is hardly appetizing. As an electorate we don’t often like to be told to take our medicine, but it’s clear to even the most casual observer that the nation’s economy and budget are in need of serious medical attention. We have a pending “fiscal cliff” where an intersection of the full implementation of Obamacare, expiration of the Bush tax cuts, expiration of payroll tax cuts, expiration of changes softening the alternative minimum tax, implementation of the “sequestration” cuts and likely reaching the new debt ceiling, among other issues, will all needing resolution between November 6 and December 31. The result of such a drastic cut in programs and large tax increase would be to significantly reduce the deficit, but to also likely drive the economy back into recession. Obama’s plan? Deal with it all after the election. Remember how long it took just to get agreement on an increase in the debt ceiling last time? Now we have a series of equally weighty issues to consider simultaneously within a seven week period.
As a result, Mitt’s selection of Paul Ryan was the equivalent of ringing Pavlov’s bell, with the Democrats’ predictable reaction forcing them almost immediately into a defense of their inaction on Medicare, which Ms. Strassel points out is one of the reasons for the sequestration cuts in the first place. The selection of Congressman Ryan has re-focused the national attention on the dire need to address the deficit and these tax issues. It’s a tough conversation, but in making a bold decision, Mitt’s selection shows he’s ready to lead.
After the convention next week, Mitt will have all $186 million at his disposal to communicate his plans to the country. Like their proposals on Medicare and energy independence, expect Romney and Ryan to be discussing real issues, with the means necessary to take their message to the country.
So while the summer saw the Obama cause spending tens of millions in ad hominem attacks and failing to put forth any real plans to address our crises, Mitt was saving money, preparing his critical pick of Mr. Ryan and readying himself to communicate his specific solutions to the American people. Mr. Podhoretz states:
September will begin with Romney holding a gigantic financial advantage — and he will be using it closer to the election, when (assuming it’s well-conceived and useful) such spending will be far more effective than summer ads.
What does this tell us about the two candidates? On the Obama side we see a disdain for the wealthy and either a lack of enthusiasm or ability. We’ve also seen the spending of unholy amounts of cash resulting in only modest, if any, improvements in reaching Obama’s goals. And no, I’m not talking about the Obama stimulus package. Meanwhile on the Romney side we’ve seen enthusiasm, success, frugality, substance and a huge budget surplus, with the Romney approach putting his cause in the best position for success when it matters. And no, I’m not talking about the Governor’s tenure in Massachusetts. It begs the question who has shown they’re most likely to succeed as commander in chief. Both campaigns are in fact a microcosm of the candidate’s larger approach. And their philosophy shows in something as simple as the President playing innumerable rounds of golf and making fundraising calls from Air Force One, while Mitt legendarily flew coach for much of his campaign (quite by chance I sat behind him on a Southwest flight a few months ago). Mitt has demonstrated success. President Obama has not. And as Ms. Strassel points out, while Obama hasn’t said what he’d do in his second term, unlike in 2008 we’ve now seen the preview. He’s shown us what he can and can’t do. And so has Mitt. The choice is clear.