White House Candidates on Summer Spending Spree
Three of the leading presidential contenders spent more than they raised for their bids over the last three months, according to fundraising disclosure reports released yesterday, as candidates continued to shatter records in the race for the White House.
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama spent $21.5 million, while among Republicans former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spent $21 million between July and September -- more than twice the amount he raised -- and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani spent $13 million.
Sen. Hillary Clinton spent more than $20 million, just less than she raised in the period, and finished with the most cash in reserve of any of the candidates for the frenetic run to the primaries.
While most candidates concentrated their spending in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission yesterday show Giuliani invested thousands of dollars opening campaign offices in places such as Fargo, North Dakota and Columbia, Missouri.
Giuliani's decision to spend there, as well as in Florida, New Jersey and Illinois -- all states that will emerge after the initial burst of primaries and caucuses in early January -- signals that he alone among the Republicans is laying the groundwork for a national primary strategy, campaign strategists said.
"It looks a lot like Rudy is banking on a breakout strategy, where he survives early losses and gets to the big states on January 29 and Super Tuesday," said Scott Reed, a former Bob Dole campaign strategist who is not attached to any presidential campaign this year.
Giuliani raised $11 million during the third quarter of 2007 -- more than his Republican counterparts -- and reached $13 million in spending without making a significant purchase of television advertising.
Romney, meanwhile, spent almost a third of his $21 million outlay on television and radio ads that have been saturating the airwaves in Iowa and New Hampshire. His $9 million in cash on hand almost matches the $8.5 million he loaned his campaign, marking another quarter in which the candidate essentially loaned himself out of debt. When asked about their pace of spending, Romney campaign officials have pointed to the significant hurdles the former governor faced as a relative unknown in a field of high-profile GOP contenders.
Romney had placed 10,893 television and radio ads through Oct. 10, according to the Neilsen Company. That total is higher than the combined ad buys of any two of the other candidates in either party.
"The fact that Gov. Romney when we announced was at 4 percent and was practically unknown outside of Utah and Massachusetts was a significant challenge, especially given the fact that we were placed into a fundraising environment that had us competing against candidates who had universal name recognition among Republican donors," said Kevin Madden, a Romney spokesman.
The latest financial reports, which cover campaign activity between July 1 and Sept. 30 and were due to the Federal Election Commission yesterday, show Giuliani continues to be best positioned to spend money in the run-up to the crucial early contests, although Romney's willingness to self-fund his bid remains a wildcard.
While Giuliani has $16 million in the bank, Romney has $9.2 million on hand and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson has $7.1 million. Sen. John McCain reported finishing September with $3.5 million in the bank, but when factoring in $1.7 million in debts owed and $1.8 million in funds he can only use if he reaches the general election, McCain finished the third quarter $94,000 in the red. Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) just $95,000, as he spent heavily in an unsuccessful attempt to win the Iowa straw poll.
Those figures were dwarfed by the amounts being banked by the leading Democrats. Obama has more than $32 million on hand and another $4 million he can spend if he is the Democratic nominee. Clinton has $35 million in her account for the primary and $15 million she can only use in the general election. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D), who has gained some traction in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, reported more than $5 million cash on hand.
The quarterly financial reports offer an important look inside the gears of the campaigns as they move out of the quiet summer months and into one of the most active phases of the campaigns. Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist who worked on Dick Gephardt's 2004 White House bid, said it is in the coming weeks that campaigns will start to dump money into television advertising and into organizational efforts that will in large measure determine the outcome of the early contests.
The reports also shed new light on the people who are donating money, and in some cases bundling checks, for the various campaigns.
This is the first FEC filing from Thompson's presidential campaign, for instance, and it shows among other things that Thompson has not yet become a major draw for the financial backers of President Bush. Only 19 of the 631 individuals previously identified as Pioneers or Rangers -- designations that George W. Bush's campaign gave to his top bundlers -- have joined the Thompson campaign.
William H. Strong, vice chairman at Morgan Stanley, is one of those who signed on with Thompson after seeing little in the initial Republican field that excited him. "There were many positive attributes of the other candidates, but trying to reach a decision about who I thought could best serve this country as president, I felt it would be Fred," Strong said.
Looking at both fundraising and spending numbers, the Thompson campaign appeared to be a far less active enterprise than the Giuliani campaign. Thompson, for instance, spent just over $430,000 on travel, while the Giuliani campaign spent more than $1 million.
Giuliani's spending was elevated at least in part because he traveled in style. He often stayed in luxury hotels, spending $2,010 at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, $4,034 at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., and $5,370 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. He also spent more than $565,000 reimbursing various corporate supporters for private jet travel, and another $800,000 on charter jet travel.
"We have said, at the end of the day, looking at the total that we have, it shows we're running a very efficient and effective campaign and are very mindful of the donations that we receive," said Maria Comella, a Giuliani campaign spokeswoman.
One Giuliani bundler added yesterday he doesn't care how the former mayor is spending his money. "I don't give a damn whether he's staying at Motel 6 or Ritz Carlton," the bundler said. "What I care about is where he is in the polls."
--Matthew Mosk and Saran Cohen
October 15, 2007; 9:35 PM ET
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