* Romney, Republicans ahead of Obama and DNC in cash on hand
* Obama campaign has direct control over larger sum
By Alina Selyukh and Alexander Cohen
WASHINGTON, Aug 21 The Republican Party and
presidential candidate Mitt Romney have almost $60 million more
in the bank than President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party
but campaign finance experts say it is too soon to assume that
means a political advantage in November.
The Obama and Romney campaigns are vying to become the most
successful fundraising operations in U.S. history, with help
from their national parties. In July, Romney raised $101 million
for his campaign and the party, outpacing Obama for the third
month in a row. Obama and the Democrats hauled in $75 million.
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.
It has prompted a flurry of fundraising emails from Obama
-whose campaign spends at a faster clip than Romney to maintain
its vast network of staff and field offices - urging donors to
give because they expect Romney to far out-raise the president.
But those grand totals may be too broad of a measure to
foretell a candidate's future financial advantage, experts say.
"Romney is ahead when you combine it all together but some
of his money is going to be less efficient," said Michael
Malbin, who runs the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.
"Obama is way ahead in the most flexible pile."
The most flexible cash belongs to campaigns, analysts said,
because it allows for spur-of-the-moment investments, for
example, to instantly rebut the opponent's latest attack.
Parties, while vowing to spend every dime on their
presidential candidate, do provide key support when it comes to
mobilizing voters and grass-roots outreach but this year they
have a $21.7 million cap on how much they can coordinate with
campaigns. That limits, most importantly, their capacity for
advertising, Malbin said, a crucial way to reach voters.
The RNC has been out-raising the DNC. It brought in $37.7
million in July, compared to the DNC's $8.8 million, according
to their Monday filings with the Federal Election Commission. At
the end of the month, the RNC had $88.8 million left in cash on
hand and the DNC had $15.4 million, FEC filings showed.
But the scale tips when comparing campaigns head-to-head.
Romney emerged at the end of July with $30.2 million in cash
on hand, while Obama had $87.7 million - nearly triple Romney's
amount - in the bank, FEC filings showed on Monday.
In fact, Obama at the end of last month had more than the
cash on hand he enjoyed at the end of July in 2008, the year of
his historically successful election bid. He had $66.4 million.
"The broad picture, the stepback is that the Obama campaign
has a stronger financial position than the Romney campaign,"
THE SPENDING CONCERN
Obama, who raised a record $750 million for the 2008
campaign that put him in the White House, had a cushy advantage
over Romney early in the 2012 campaign season because he had no
challenger from his party, while the Republican until May
battled several opponents in a bitter primary competition.
"The way to think of it is Obama started running a marathon
in April 2011, while Romney was in the hurdle race to run
through a primary and now he's running a sprint, he has to raise
much more money," said Bill Allison of the non-partisan Sunlight
Foundation, which tracks campaign spending and fundraising as
part of its effort to increase government transparency.
Where Obama got left behind in the money game is when he
started spending more than he raised.
In July, continuing several months of the trend, Obama's
campaign spent $58.5 million, roughly two-thirds of it on
advertising. Romney's campaign last month spent a total of $32.3
million, with half going toward ad production and placement.
"It's not as if that money is wasted," Allison said of
Obama's high burn rate in run-up to the Nov. 6 election. "The
only thing that matters (this close to the vote) is spending it
all. ... Candidates don't want to leave anything on the table."
When Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry lost a
close race to George W. Bush in 2004, he was criticized for
having $16.8 million left over in campaign coffers after
out-raising the Republican throughout the campaign.
That year, Kerry was also heavily aided by liberal outside
spending groups, predominantly non-profit advocacy organizations
that poured in $121.3 million, according to the Center for
Responsive Politics. Conservative outside groups spent $68.4
million on the 2004 election, according to CRP.
But, legally prohibited from coordinating with campaigns,
outside groups have trouble rebutting personal attacks against
their candidate. That year, liberal groups failed to effectively
respond to allegations against Kerry, including an attack on his
Vietnam War record by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
Similarly, this year Romney is receiving help from
conservative non-profits and "super" political action
committees, which can raise and spend unlimited funds and have
been outdoing their Democratic rivals.
The Super PAC devoted to Romney's election, Restore Our
Future, in July raised $7.5 million, Monday's filing showed. Of
that, $2 million came from Bob Perry, a Houston homebuilder who
was a major donor behind Swift Boat.
The pro-Obama Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, on Monday
reported raising $4.8 million in July. The group has been under
fire recently for its latest ad that links Romney to the death
of a woman whose steelworker husband lost his job after Romney's
company, Bain Capital, closed the plant where he worked.