August is the Make It Or Break It Month For Obama and Romney

“This isn’t hyperbole or exaggeration: If we don’t win this election, it will be because we didn’t close the spending gap when we could.” 

Vice President Joe Biden sent this message to Obama for America (OFA) email subscribers last Monday as the “one hundred days to election” mark drew near for both candidates. During the next 24 hours these same supporters saw their inboxes flooded by a surge of donation request emails from OFA all sharing the same sobering message: Romney is out funding and spending us.

Seeing the July reports for campaign fundraising, it becomes clear why the need for concern was laid out. That said, when looking to the actual number of donors, total spending between the candidates, and polling trends, Biden’s message seems a bit embellished.

In July, Governor Mitt Romney pulled in $101.3 million by himself. Among these donations, 600,627 of them were $250 or less making up 94.13% of Romney’s total donors. This group funded about 25% of Mr. Romney’s total amount at $25.7 million, meaning that the remaining $75.6 million raised by Mr. Romney came from 5.87% of his donors. Two thousand dollars was about the average for these 38,000 supporters.

Simply put, July was the second consecutive month where Gov. Romney out-funded President Barack Obama

Obama didn’t have too bad of a month either, especially when looking at the breakdown of his support. By reaching $75 million, Obama gathered four more million than in June, and saw an impressive array of donors. In total, 761,000 people donated to OFA with 201,000 of those being donors that did not give in 2008. Compared to Romney’s 94.13%, Obama’s campaign looks healthy with 98% of his funding coming from donations of $250 or less; Obama also attracted a larger amount of donors than his opponent.

Extracting these July numbers into the overall picture of RNC vs. DNC, Restore Our Future Super PAC vs. Priorities USA Super PAC, and Romney vs. Obama; a tone of healthy competition becomes apparent for both sides. This is manifested by both the $404.9 million spent by Democrats up until July, and the $314.5 million spent by Republicans in the same time frame.

The polls have been particularly revealing as Obama, despite losing two fundraising battles in a row, has seen a steady rise in electoral probability and popular vote polling. Since June 19, Obama’s electoral probability rating has risen from 62% (288 votes) to today’s 72% (297 votes).  Romney has consequently seen a dip in both areas. 

A solid job report from July shares a significant part in the explanation for Obama’s up-tick and Romney’s gaffe filled trip abroad is still on the mind of voters, but Obama’s spending amount may be the biggest reason for his recent poll success. Obama, his PAC, and the DNC collectively outspent Romney and his crew by $32.5 million in June, and the poll numbers -- whether by correlation or causation -- seem to reflect this.

The question therefore ends up being, especially considering Romney’s recent fundraising streak, whether or not Obama can continue to outspend his opponent. It’s an important question, because it’s the only means Obama has towards the end of keeping Romney’s image from improving.

David Brooks, PBS News Hour pundit and New York Times columnist, puts this issue of image in perspective as he argues that the election’s, “Fundamental dynamic still slightly favors Romney, because I think it's much more likely we are going to see Romney's character image rise than that we're going to see the economy rise.”

August will be the biggest show of Brooks’ economy versus image dichotomy to date, and will provide a good litmus test for November. This is because Labor Day has historically been the turning point for elections in terms of campaign activity, and more importantly voter attention to candidates and election story lines.

If Romney can piece together an August where he wins another fundraising battle and outspends Obama, with a bit of luck from an always possible bad jobs report, the former governor just might be able to start turning this race around.

If not, the chants of “four more years” may just come to fruition.