Where Barack Obama Is Outspending Mitt Romney

The Obama campaign is succeeding with its Bain attacks against Romney.

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In this June 19, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talks about the vetting of a vice presidential running mate in Holland, Mich. With the campaign entering a six-week period before the national nominating conventions kick off the fall campaign, how Romney takes advantage of his assets and seeks to overcome his hurdles against President Barack Obama will partly determine whether he’s able before then to break out of what polls show is a close race.

It's become an article of faith that despite the advantages of incumbency, there's a likelihood that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party will be outraised by Mitt Romney and the GOP, having been outraised two months running. The Obama campaign has taken to riling up supporters by saying that it will be the first incumbent effort in history to be outspent (though this assertion is under some dispute). But there's money and then there's money, and in the short term—the time in which Romney is being defined—the bulk of Romney's big bucks remain parked on the sideline, unable to enter the game.

The key is the difference between primary election fundraising and general election fundraising. According to the New York Times's Michael Shear, Romney's campaign

has been hampered by a quirk in financing which has temporarily left Mr. Romney without the resources to mount an overwhelming response to the Democratic attacks, according to sources close to the campaign.

Most of the money that Mr. Romney has raised in the last several months can be used only in the general election, which begins after the party's national convention this summer, the sources said. The long and contentious Republican primary drained Mr. Romney of much of the money he could spend before then.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

Indeed, in a release this morning, the Romney campaign—citing the Washington Post's neat ad spending tracker page—noted that the Obama campaign has spent more than twice the Romney campaign on television advertising, $51.4 million to $22.7 million, with most of Obama's ads being negative against Romney.

Mitt Romney and his career are being defined right now. He'll get fresh look at his convention, but his entire reason for seeking office is his business experience—the fact that his campaign is scrambling to change the subject from that experience speaks to the effectiveness of the Obama line of attacks. In fact a new Rasmussen poll found that voters are evenly divided—41 percent to 41 percent—as to whether Romney's business experience is a positive attribute for him. Independents see Romney's business experience as a positive by 40-37, according to the poll, but that's down from 48-25 in May.

If the president's team succeeds in making Bain Capital a topic-non-grata for Romney, it blows away the main underpinning of his campaign.