The Obama campaign announced its February 2012 donation numbers today, with the campaign raking in $45 million last month. Of course, the Republicans immediately cast the numbers as low, but what was important, at least to us, is that nearly 350,000 people contributed to the Obama 2012 effort with an average amount of $59.04. 105,000 people contributed for the first time. Mitt Romney hauled in $11.5 million in February, from far fewer individual donors than Obama.
While conventional wisdom is that the candidate with the most money nearly always wins, and wins by a greater margin the greater the difference in expenditures, the 2012 Romney campaign is proving the opposite. Romney has outspent Rick Santorum by a huge margin, 12-1 in some states, and Romney has not netted the results one would anticipate given the disparity in cash between the candidates. Exclusive of Super PAC spending and contributions, which come primarily from a small number of large donors, Rick Santorum has spent $5,224,376 while Mitt Romney has spent $55,986,173. The disparity however has not translated into votes at the ballot box. For example, Rick Santorum did not spend a penny in Mississippi, and won, while Romney outspent Santorum 12-1 in Michigan, and barely eked out a victory. This story of of the diminished per capita value of campaign spending has repeated itself in nearly each of the primary states thus far. Romney is spending nearly four times as much as Santorum per vote. Romney has also somehow managed to severely enrage potential female contributors, with nearly 70% of every dollar he has raised coming from men. Obama has received nearly 45% of his contributions from women.
More interesting is that nearly 60% of Romney’s contributions have come from those writing checks for the maximum amount of $2,500. Those donors can’t contribute again. Santorum on the other hand has received nearly 60% of his donations in amounts less than $200, with only 16% of contributors maxed out. What this tells us is that money isn’t the only story this election season. Obama has similar percentage numbers on his side, with only 20% of his contributors maxed out, and nearly 55% below the $200 level. He isn’t Rick Santorum however, so he has 100% less crazy, and the advantage of being an incumbent President. Romney will win the nomination of the Republican Party before long, but how would his campaign have fared if he hadn’t had the ability to outspend Santorum to such a degree?
The February numbers indicate, to us at least, that Obama is in a powerful position going into the fall. If he is able to continue to grow his core numbers of contributors each month, or maintain status quo in the 150,000-200,000 range, it will strengthen an already strong grass-roots system extraordinarily likely to assist him in getting out the vote and campaigning on a micro level this fall. This is important because nearly 90% of Romney’s contributions have come from “large donors” unlikely of doing anything to get out the vote other than hobnobbing with other large donors. It is also important because no matter the Koch Brothers bluster, Obama is likely to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in Super PAC money to compete with the Republicans. Once the Republican primary race is over, the individual donors will have nowhere to contribute but to Romney, and as such the total numbers for each candidate with equalize. The story this November may ultimately revolve around one campaign with tons of cash and no real grass-roots network versus another campaign with tons of cash and an army of volunteers. If Romney has proven anything this primary season, it is that money matters, but crushing amounts of money do not always provide the commensurate results. If the trend described above continues into the Romney versus Obama campaign, we like Obama’s chances.