Huckabee's Price of Admission: $100,000
Relishing his second-place finish in the Ames, Iowa straw poll on Saturday, Mike Huckabee yesterday noted that he managed to snare 18 percent of the vote despite investing much less in the event than his top rivals. "It wasn't just that we surprised people with a second showing, it's that we did it with so few resources," he said. "This really was feeding the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves."
Actually, crumbs might have been more like it, considering just how huge the disparity is between the former Arkansas governor and the poll's winner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who collected 32 percent of the vote. Until the next round of campaign finance reports appear in October, there is no way of knowing exactly how much campaigns spent on the straw poll, but the basic outlines are clear. Huckabee says he spent little more than $100,000 on the event, while earlier campaign finance reports show that Romney spent more than that simply on the stipends he paid about 60 'volunteers' in Iowa for several months leading up to the polls -- between $500 and $1,000 per month to local supporters tasked with talking him up in their towns. Rival campaigns estimate Romney spent more than $2 million preparing for the straw poll, not including more than $2 million in television ads he has purchased in Iowa.
The clearest apple-to-apple comparison can be found in the campaign finance filings the two candidates have made through June 30, which lay bare just how broad the gap is between the men who finished atop the Ames poll. Through the first half of the year, Romney spent $32 million nationally to Huckabee's $853,000. (Huckabee's fundraising for the first half was so meager that it lagged behind even other second tier candidates such as Ron Paul, Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo). Romney spent nearly $3 million on political and financial consultants to Huckabee's roughly $100,000, and $4 million on direct mail efforts to Huckabee's $58,000. Payrolls? Romney listed about 180 people on staff during the first half of the year, for a total of $5.5 million in salaries over that time, exactly ten times as many bodies as Huckabee's 18, who earned a total of $234,000. These bodies, of course, required more desks -- Romney spent $333,000 on office equipment and furniture, to $9,000 for Huckabee. Romney spent $788,000 on polling to Huckabee's zero.
And Romney has lived much larger on the social scene. Through the end of June, he spent $1.8 million on fundraisers and other events, with just a handful of events easily surpassing Huckabee's $58,000 total events spending for the period, much of which came in the form of reimbursements to supporters who provided their own refreshments. Romney spent $35,000 on a clambake caterer in Connecticut in May, $32,000 on the Boston convention center for a fundraiser in January -- and a total of $16,000 on tickets at several ballparks around the country.
Of course, if Huckabee's second place finish in Ames gives him a much-needed boost in fundraising, he may start, ever so slowly, to close the money gap. And to celebrate, he could even take his staff to a ballgame or two.
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