President Obama’s Fund-raising Machine Is Sputtering

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Working the room. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/2012 Getty Images

It is now accepted political reality that Romney and the wildly successful Republican super-PACs will out-raise Obama, and outspend him on the airwaves. Despite that, the president was always expected to at the very least match his record-breaking 2008 numbers — enough to keep his unparalleled ground game humming along. That may be increasingly unlikely, reports the New York Times, after perusing the president's reelection finances. So far, the Obama campaign has spent over $400 million (a fifth of that went to advertising), with another $52 million on payroll and benefits. For the first time ever, the president and the Democrats have less money in the bank than Romney and the Republican National Committee.

With monthly fund-raising totals consistently falling short of expectations, source close to the campaign told the Times that more and more campaign days are being set aside for extra fund-raisers, with Democratic super-PAC Priorities USA Action tapping Bill Clinton for help. Naturally, Democratic and campaign officials are quick to wave off talk of cash flow problems, arguing that the president's spend-early strategy is actually a winning one. As explained by the Times' anonymous source:

You can pay for direct mail or TV ads at the last minute, but you can't shortcut long-term volunteer training programs. The relationships we've built, the depth of what people know about their communities, our data systems, the training and organization — good luck doing that in less than 100 days.

Additionally, there's that age-old political trope that it's always easier to set the narrative early on than it is to change it later, which is precisely why the Obama campaign and its allies doubled down on ads characterizing Mitt Romney as the outsourcing king of Bain Capital and a tax haven-favoring one-percenter. Still, no one wants to find themselves even a little short on money in the all-important lead-up to Election Day.