Here’s one definition of change: In 2008, the Obama campaign bragged about how badly they tromped John McCain in fundraising and campaign spending. Eighteen months ago, they began boasting that Team O would raise a billion dollars for his re-election effort in 2012. Today, however, they’re already griping that Mitt Romney and conservatives will outraise them this time around — and now the whining has reached all the way to the top. On Friday, Barack Obama personally held a conference call with recalcitrant big-ticket donors from Air Force One as he flew back from Colorado, urging them to get off the sidelines and into the game. Obama warned them that he would be the first President ever to be outspent in a re-election effort by his challenger:
“We are going to see more money spent on negative ads through these super PACs and anonymous outside groups than ever before. And if things continue as they have so far, I’ll be the first sitting president in modern history to be outspent in his reelection campaign.”
So far, though, the opposite is true, as Timothy Carney explains at the Washington Examiner:
First of all, Obama’s campaign has raised much more money than Romney’s, it has spent more money than Romney’s, and it has more cash on hand than Romney’s, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
But you can’t just count the campaigns. After all, when Obama hosts his $30,000-a-head fundraisers, he’s raising money for his campaign and the DNC — and the DNC is spending that money basically to re-elect Obama. On the national committees, Obama is beating Romney, too.
Of course, Obama is also counting outside groups with the reference to super-PACs. But if that’s the case, then Obama won’t be the first to face a deficit. Carney has a graph from 2004 that shows George W. Bush being outspent by nearly $200 million when outside groups get counted in the mix. The difference this time is that unions don’t get the only exception to campaign-finance regulation, and so others can build the same kinds of political-action war chests that unions have used for decades. Carney concludes:
So, either Obama’s including outside money, in which case he’s not the first to be outspent. Or he’s not including outside money, in which case he’s not being outspent.
You know what might have evened up the fight a little bit? The public-funding limits for presidential campaigns. Too bad for Obama that a previous presidential candidate became the first since Watergate to opt out so that he could massively outspend his rival, effectively killing the program altogether. Who was that again? Oh, yeah. Hey, Mr. President, let me paraphrase one of your predecessors: if you can’t stand the Heats, stay out of the kitchen.
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Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!