the national interest

Can Romney Spend Obama Dry?

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at Lansing Community College May 8, 2012 in Lansing, Michigan.
Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

A new poll in Michigan shows Mitt Romney, who has heavily trailed President Obama in the state, pulling into a one-point lead. Ordinarily, a single state poll with a hard-to-believe result can be safely ignored. (See: recent poll showing Obama nearly tied with Romney in Tennessee, a state he has no chance to win.) Obama won Michigan by 17 points in 2008, and single-handedly saved the state from collapse by rescuing its auto industry while Romney was calling for it to go bankrupt. Obama is not going to lose Michigan unless he suffers a total national collapse.

But the poll does show that Romney might be able to use his financial advantage to bleed Obama dry.

As First Read points out, pro-Republican groups have spent $3.4 million in the state this year, compared with zero for Obama and his supporters. Could that kind of advantage move a state like Michigan into a tie? Possibly. Obama would surely pull back ahead if he spent some money there.

But the problem for Obama is that he doesn’t have money to compete everywhere. A major story of the campaign is turning out to be the large fund-raising advantage for the GOP. Romney outraised Obama in May. That’s not shocking by itself — John Kerry outraised President Bush in the month after he wrapped up the nomination. But this comes atop a massive Republican advantage in outside spending, as Republican billionaires are determined to spend whatever it takes oust Obama, while Democratic billionaires have decided that trying to even the playing field would be wrong.

One of the things a party can do with a financial advantage like this is force the other party to spend money it doesn’t want to spend. Obama doesn’t need to match Romney’s spending to win Michigan, but if he gets outspent, say, 10 million to nothing, he could lose the state. Republicans have the money to dump into safe Democratic states and force Obama to defend them. If it works in Michigan, it could work in other blue states, too. The point isn’t to win those states. The point is to drain Obama’s resources for the states he really does need to compete in, like Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, and so on.

Can Romney Spend Obama Dry?