Analysts question whether 2012 campaign cash edge matters

July 26, 2012

By Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – After Federal Election Commission’s filings this month showed Mitt Romney out-raised President Obama by a whopping $35 million in June, Team Obama flooded donors in-boxes with messages that were notable for their dire tone.

“We can win a race in which the other side spends more than we do,” Obama wrote in a July 10 fundraising e-mail. “But not this much more.”

If Romney and sympathetic super PACs continue to significantly out-raise Obama over the next four months, most of that money will likely be poured into a barrage of advertising in swing states.

But in a campaign in which both sides could spend billions of dollars, some question whether a fundraising advantage is as meaningful as it once was.

“If each side raises the table stakes of $500 million, which certainly appears will happen, after that it’s just going to be white noise and a lot of wasted advertising,” said Mark McKinnon, a top strategist in George W. Bush‘s presidential campaigns.

And with the sheer amount of money that both campaigns have at their disposal, voters in battleground states — which are getting a bulk of the advertising attention — are going to become anesthetized to the advertising long before both sides empty their coffers, says Matt Bennett, who served as campaign communications director to Al Gore’s 2000 campaign.

The Obama campaign has predicted that Romney and GOP-leaning groups will spend $1.2 billion. The Obama campaign, which won’t offer estimates of what it expects to raise in 2012, spent about $750 million in 2008.

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