Buddy, can you spare a dime: We’ll admit that we were surprised by yesterday’s Washington Post.
On the front page, Dan Eggen reported about the state of campaign fund-raising. Perhaps we’ve been watching too much cable. But this took us by surprise:
EGGEN (3/13/12): 2012 GOP contest shaping up to be cheapest race in yearsSay what? As Eggen suggests, the buzz has been all about the obscene amounts of cash in this post-Citizens United era. But according to Eggen: “While many voters may feel overrun with negative ads, every primary season since the 1990s has featured more spending than the current contest, records show.”
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...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...the Republican contenders spent more cash in 2008 all on their own.
We’re not real sure how that’s being computed. But friend, how bad is this year’s fund-raising? Before long, Eggen uses some numbers.
The fund-raising seems to be bad:
EGGEN: In 2008, the combined Republican field...had raised nearly $310 million and spent $278 million of that through the early January contests, according to data from Malbin’s research. The figures include $42 million in money that Romney poured into the race from his personal bank account.Let’s attempt to do the math, adding the super PACs into the stew:
Those numbers have been halved in 2012, with $146 million raised and $133 million spent by GOP presidential candidates through Jan. 31, the data show. Romney has not contributed his own money this time around.
This year’s crop of hopefuls does have a new financial weapon in the form of super PACs, which are technically separate from the campaigns but can raise unlimited amounts of money on their behalf...
Nonetheless, even the monied super PACs haven’t closed the gap in spending compared with 2008. The top six GOP super PACs spent about $37 million on behalf of their favored presidential candidates through January, according to Federal Election Commission data.
2008 GOP spending through early January: $278 millionBy our calculations, $170 million is less than the previous figure!
2012 GOP spending through the end of January: $170 million
On the Republican side, Eggen cites standard explanations: Extremely lousy candidates, plus the bad economy. But uh-oh! “Even Obama, who does not have to fight a primary opponent, has begun to lag behind the pace he set in 2008, when he became the most successful fundraiser in U.S. political history.”
Eggen says the dough will explode once we get a Republican nominee. But who says we’ll ever get one of them? And on cable, we constantly hear about all the obscene wads of dough.
Have we perhaps been listening wrong? Inquiring minds want to know.