President Moneybags

Some headlines from the summer, via a quick Google search: “Obama bracing to be outspent by Romney,” “Obama pleads with donors for money,” “Democrats’ Money Panic: Is Obama About to Get Swamped by GOP?” “President Obama Brags About Being Outspent,” “GOP Outspending Obama Across the Map.” And so forth.

You remember those days? When every solicitation from the Obama campaign to buy a Hope and Change Grill Spatula or a Joe Biden Beer Koozie, every suggestion to remember Obama in your will or give your wedding dowry to the campaign, came with the president expressing his desperate fear that he would become “the first incumbent president ever to be outspent.”

Remember the State of the Union despairing over the Citizens United decision and the “the corrosive influence of money in politics”? The flacks and surrogates whispering “dark money” in grave tones?

So has this PACocalypse come to pass? Is Romneygeddon upon us?

Not hardly:

Mitt Romney was expected to use a billionaire-fueled fundraising juggernaut to crush President Barack Obama’s once vaunted small-donor army.

But things haven’t gone according to plan.

Headed into the home stretch of the 2012 presidential race, it is Obama who looks to have an edge, thanks to an awakening donor base, aggressive summer spending on ads and ground game, and a Romney hoarding strategy that left him with plenty of cash in the bank, but not much to show for it.

Through the end of August, Romney’s campaign and the party committees and super PAC supporting it had raised $736 million, compared to $774 million raised by Obama’s campaign and its party and super PAC allies, according to a POLITICO analysis of voluntary disclosures and Federal Election Commission reports filed Thursday.

While Romney’s side boasted a nearly $50-million edge in cash on hand — $175 million to $126 million — headed into the final two months, it also had $10 million more in debt, as Romney’s campaign took out a $20 million loan to address cash flow issues.

In fact, the Times reports that Romney is scrimping for ad buys in the swing states that are going to decide the election:

One major reason appears to be that Mr. Romney’s campaign finances have been significantly less robust than recent headlines would suggest. Much of the more than $300 million the campaign reported raising this summer is earmarked for the Republican National Committee, state Republican organizations and Congressional races, limiting the money Mr. Romney’s own campaign has to spend.

Of course none of this is surprising from the first president in history to have raised $100 million in one month and the first to refuse public-matching funds. But I’m continuously amazed by how essential this underdog narrative seems to be to exciting the Democratic base, and how at odds their self-conception is with reality. How else do you explain the MSM describing wealthy supporters at a Romney fundraiser “standing around elegantly appointed tables swilling wine,” while the $280,000 champagne tower at an Obama fundraiser hosted by Jay-Z and Beyonce can comfortably coexist with a candidate who tells us “at some point, I do think you’ve made enough money.”

Daniel Foster — Daniel Foster has been news editor of National Review Online since 2009, and was a web site editor until 2012. His work has appeared in The American Spectator, The American ...

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