At first blush, associating Barack Obama with deficits of any sort seems like a complete non-story. After all, this is the president who has presided over four consecutive trillion-plus dollar deficits after pledging to slice that number in half by the end of this term. He's also the man whose unanimously rejected FY 2013 budget would literally never balance, generating additional deficits as far as the eye can see. Nevertheless, seeing red ink splattered on Obama's re-election campaign's balance sheet still feels strange. This group once boasted that it would raise a billion dollars for this cycle -- and despite Obama's recent implications to the contrary, the facts show that his operation widely outspent his opponent's in the last election. So what to make of this?
President Obama outspent Mitt Romney 2 to 1 in June even as Mr. Romney far outraised him, according to campaign reports filed on Friday with the Federal Election Commission, leaving Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party with significantly less cash on hand than Mr. Romney and the Republicans as polls show a head-to-head race. Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee spent $70.8 million in June, including about $38 million on television advertising, as the president’s campaign sought to batter Mr. Romney over his ties to Bain Capital, the private equity firm. Mr. Romney and the Republican National Committee spent $38.8 million, including about $11 million on television advertising — more than double what Mr. Romney’s campaign spent in May but far less than Mr. Obama.
In terms of direct contributions, the Obama campaign "reported more than $46 million in June and total spending of $58 million," a $12 million gap. Still, as Kevin reported over the weekend, Obama's claim of being victimized by overwhelming Republican money isn't exactly accurate. The president continues to crush Romney in spending, overall and in swing states. Much of this advantage can be attributed to campaign laws, which do not permit Romney to spend his recent cash spike until after he officially becomes the Republican nominee in late August. With the law and the calendar on his side for the moment, Obama has poured roughly $100 million into (overwhelmingly negative) ads, hoping to define his opponent in voters' minds. Obama donors may be wondering about their return on investment. National Journal notices that polling trends suggest that Obama hasn't managed to seize the moment:
The first round of polls is out after President Obama’s Bain attacks against Mitt Romney and the results aren’t good news for the White House. By themselves, the national toplines are discouraging enough: Romney holds a (statistically-insignificant) 47 to 46 percent lead in the new New York Times/CBS poll, and the president is stuck at 47 percent in recent polls by Fox News and NPR. But beneath the head-to-head numbers, the results foreshadow tough times ahead for Obama. Voters appear to be processing the worsening economic news belatedly, and their pessimism shows. In the CBS/NYT poll, Obama’s job approval dropped to 44 percent, with only 39 percent approving of his economic performance -- down five points from April. For the first time since January, more voters now think the economy is getting worse. Nearly two-thirds of voters now place some blame on the president for the weak economic conditions, with 34 percent giving him “significant” responsibility, and an outright 52 percent majority of independents believe Obama will “never improve” the economy. These aren’t numbers that victories are made of.
Another red flag for Team Obama is the president's crumbling favorability ratings, a troubling departure from his previous strength:
Note well that Obama is underwater on the favorability question, generally his strong suit, by double digits. More Americans are developing a poor overall perception of Obama the man, independent from their misgivings about his leadership...Obama's favorability with independents is -- wait for it -- 28/52 (!), with Romney actually above water at 32/31.
The question the media should be asking is not how much Obama's Bain attacks are hurting Romney; it's whether Obama's Bain attacks are hurting Obama. I'll leave you with this related nugget, reported by the Weekly Standard over the weekend. Remember The One's big May re-elect kickoff event in Columbus? His campaign spent nearly $93,000 to rent a large arena -- and ended up with thousands of empty seats:
This turnout fell well short of Chicago's expectations:
"The Obama campaign expects overflow crowds ... as part of carefully orchestrated optics. Aides want to portray the president as still highly popular among young people and still able to energize large crowds."
Hyped expectations, disappointing results, huge expenditures and resulting deficits. Sound familiar?