"We're in a holding pattern," said Charlie Black, a veteran Republican campaign strategist and informal adviser to Romney.
Perhaps not for long.
With a huge cash advantage, Romney is considering trying to put more states in play — and creating more state-by-state paths to reach 270. He's closely watching to see whether it's worth it to compete aggressively in Wisconsin, now that native son Rep. Paul Ryan is on the ticket.
The Republican National Committee and GOP allies have been advertising in the state in hopes of making it competitive; at least one poll shows they've had some success and the race appears close. Obama, who has a formidable campaign on the ground that includes the state's active labor and minority blocs, hasn't advertised there but might be forced to do so.
Romney also is eyeing a deeper investment in Michigan, where he campaigned Friday, and Pennsylvania, where Ryan was last week. Obama carried both states in 2008, but the GOP sees promise in the economically struggling northern industrial states, especially among working-class, white voters.
The Republican may have the money to expand the map.
August financial reports show that Romney's overall fundraising apparatus — his campaign, the RNC and a separate joint-fundraising committee — had roughly $177 million in the bank at the end of July. The reports are the most recent public data.
And to a greater degree than Obama, Romney also has amassed an untapped stockpile of general election money that he plans to use this fall. He can begin spending it immediately upon accepting the nomination for president at the convention's close Thursday night.
Obama and his comparable committees, in turn, had only about $127 million on hand, according to the most recent report.
He also must wait until he accepts his party's nomination on Sept. 6, the close of the Democratic convention, to start spending his general election money.
Unlike Romney, Obama isn't focused on expanding the map in earnest.
He's mostly looking to hang onto as many of the states he won four years ago, with Ohio being of particular focus. In recent months, Obama's standing there has strengthened, the unemployment rate has dropped and last week General Motors announced a $200 million expansion of a northeast Ohio plant to continue building the Chevrolet Cruze there.
Beyond playing defense, Obama's team is watching to see whether the political terrain becomes more favorable to him in Missouri in the aftermath of controversial abortion and rape comments by Rep. Todd Akin, a GOP Senate candidate.
The backlash has been fierce, and polls show Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill — arguably the most vulnerable Senate Democrat — having gained ground. Obama competed for Missouri four years ago but lost and hasn't run ads there this year. Romney has had a comfortable advantage there.
If they have the money to do it, both sides will engage in head-faking: spending money in places simply to force the other side to defend their home turf. For example, if Romney goes after Pennsylvania, which has voted Democratic in all recent presidential elections, Obama would likely have to spend money to defend it, limiting the amount of cash he'll have available to spend in more competitive states, like Florida or Virginia.
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