By Matea Gold, Melanie Mason and Joseph Tanfani, Tribune Washington Bureau –
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney each held unique financial advantages headed into the final 19 days of the race after raising money at a furious pace during the first half of October.
Romney’s campaign and affiliated party committees raised $111.8 million between Oct 1. and 17, while Obama’s re-election committee and party allies pulled in $90.5 million, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission. The reports are the last required before Election Day.
Despite Romney’s cash advantage, Obama raised more directly into his campaign committee, pulling in $54.4 million to Romney’s $38 million.
That gives the president more flexibility in how he can use his financial resources in the final stretch. As of Oct. 17, Obama had $93.6 million million in the bank, while his GOP rival had $52.7 million.
Overall, however, Romney and his party allies had more on hand: $169 million to the almost $125 million held by the president and affiliated Democratic committees.
In the end, it is likely that both candidates will exceed $1 billion in money raised, breaking all previous records. Since the beginning of the 2012 cycle, Obama’s campaign and affiliated committees have already pulled in a record $1.037 billion, according to FEC data and the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute. That surpasses the $937 million he raised for his 2008 White bid through his campaign, the Democratic National Committee and three joint fundraising committees.
Romney is also on track to break the billion-dollar mark, with a total haul of $950.7 million, some which has gone to the party’s congressional committees.
During the first 17 days of October, Romney burned through $62 million, while Obama spent $82.9 million.
The spending is only going to intensify.
In a recent gathering of top donors in New York, Romney campaign officials detailed their strategy for the final weeks; at that point they planned to pump as much as $100 million into television and online ads between Oct. 18 and Election Day. That massive bombardment would mean a substantially expanded on-air presence for the campaign.
The Republican National Committee, which entered the final 19-day period with $67.6 million on hand, plans to devote more money than planned to advertising, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Thursday.
Both candidates will be backed by outside groups, but GOP-allied super PACs had a significant cash advantage over their Democratic counterparts for the final leg of the race.
Priorities USA Action, the super PAC backing Obama, raised $13 million during the first half of October. More than half of its haul came from just seven donors giving $1 million each, including financier George Soros and Mark Pincus, chief executive of online game company Zynga. The group spent $10.2 million and had $10.1 million in the bank.
Meanwhile, the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future raised $20 million, with half its take coming from casino magnate and prolific Republican donor Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who each wrote $5 million checks a week apart.
In all, Adelson has suggested he could spend more than $100 million in the 2012 campaign. Together with his family, he has given at least $46.5 million in donations to groups that disclose their donations, according to campaign finance reports.
Restore Our Future also collected $1 million a piece from a quartet of donors: Jerry Perenchio, former chief of Spanish-language media company Univision; Julian Robertson, a billionaire hedge fund manager; Dallas-based investor Harold C. Simmons; and Edward St. John, a Baltimore developer. All except St. John are repeat donors to the group.
The pro-Romney super PAC also benefited from a rising stock market this year. In June, the committee said it received stock worth $50,265 from Sean Feiler, a New York financial analyst and chairman of a group called the American Principles Project that advocates a return to the gold standard. When the committee sold the stock last week, it was worth $67,119.
After spending $12.5 million, almost entirely on media and direct mail, Restore Our Future entered the final three weeks of the election with $24 million cash on hand.
American Crossroads, the other major Republican super PAC, brought in $11.6 million, some from the same donors. Simmons wrote a $4 million check on Oct. 12, bringing his total to the group to $12.5 million. Perenchio gave $500,000.
Texas home builder Bob Perry and Robert B. Rowling, chairman of TRT Holdings, also each added $1 million. Perry has given $5 million to American Crossroads alone; Rowling’s checks total $4 million.
After spending $21 million in the first 17 days of October, the group entered the last leg of the campaign with $6.4 million.