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Final Stretch Marks Shift in Money Race

President Obama; photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama arrives in Miami on Wednesday to participate in a forum for Univision. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

President Obama entered the final stretch of the campaign season with $88.8 million in the bank, while his Republican rival Mitt Romney had $50.4 million in cash on hand and $15 million in debt to repay.

The two men vying for the White House are remaining competitive in the money race, and each will have plenty to spend over the next seven weeks. But as Politico’s Ken Vogel and Dave Levinthal summed it up, “Team Obama has the momentum at the right time.”

From their story looking at the August fundraising:

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….

Big Democratic donors are rallying to the Priorities USA Action super PAC, which is devoted to helping him and raised $10.1 million last month — its best month ever. And overall, for the first time in months, Obama’s campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the joint DNC-Obama Victory Fund outraised Romney’s campaign, the Republican National Committee and Romney Victory — $114 million to $111.6 million.

As the Washington Post’s Dan Eggen notes in a piece about Romney’s financial troubles, “The campaign also fell behind in its attempts to reach grass-roots donors despite the addition of tea party favorite Paul Ryan to the ticket, records show.”

Eggen also caught that on Aug. 31, “Romney handed out more than $200,000 in bonuses to top employees, including $37,500 to national political director Richard Beeson and $25,000 each to a half dozen others, the records show.”

The Obama for America FEC filing was 170,000 pages long, nearly double the size of the July report. The document details every donor giving $200 or more and campaign spending, from staff salaries to lighting equipment for rallies.

The president’s team spent $83.2 million of the $84.2 million it raised in August. And how is the campaign using that money? NewsHour partner CMAG notes Friday that Team Obama currently has an unprecedented 20 different television spots on the air, two of those in Spanish.

On Thursday night, the NewsHour took a step back from the pure numbers to examine the mechanics of fundraising and how Citizens United has reshaped the money game.

Judy Woodruff talked with The Washington Post’s Ann Gerhart and The Atlantic’s James Bennet for that bigger picture of campaign fundraising — what it looks like, what it means today and where it’s going.

So far, we’ve seen two strategies from the presidential campaigns. The Obama team has spent its cash heavily on advertising to set the tone in defining his opposition. Romney, on the other hand, hasn’t spent as much yet and presumably will pile on more advertising as Election Day approaches. The campaigns have both been raising monster sums, but the Democrats outraised the Republicans in August.

Bennet said:

We always feel like there’s so much money in politics; nothing really changes. But there’s been a public financing system in place since the Watergate era for presidential candidates.

This is the first time both major party candidates have rejected that system. And they’re frantically trying to raise as much money as they can, because so much is pouring in from the outside.

Bennet pointed out that both Romney and President Obama have spent more time courting donors at private events than they have interacting with voters in public.

He also explained an intriguing double-edged sword for Romney hidden in the money. If outside groups such as 501c4s and super PACs begin to sense their candidates may lose, they’re free to divert their spending to other, more opportunistic races.

Gerhart detailed the donor profile of the types of folks at that Boca Raton, Fla., fundraiser where Romney was secretly recorded:

[T]hose people paid $50,000 for an OK dinner, nothing special, but to have that kind of intimate exchange with the candidate.

There are all kinds of fundraisers, the ones that are $100 that are intended to bring out young people, and then sometimes at those, if you pay $2,500, maybe you will get your picture with the first lady. There’s kind of like tiered things…

Donors usually fall broadly into one of two categories…ideological donors and access donors. And access donors want a kind of specific regulatory control to what they do. And ideological donors believe in a cause or the party’s causes.

Watch the discussion here or below:

Don’t miss BuzzFeed’s look at how consultants in the political industrial complex continue getting paid even when it makes little sense.

BATTLEGROUND POLLS

A triad of battleground state polls dropped Thursday, and all three showed President Obama leading Romney.

In Iowa, the president holds a 50 percent to 42 percent advantage over his GOP challenger, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll.

The president led by five points among likely voters in both Colorado and Wisconsin, 50 percent to 45 percent.

The results are similar to last week’s Journal/NBC/Marist poll from Florida, Ohio and Virginia, which gave the president a lead in six states critical to the outcome of the Nov. 6 election.

The latest round of polling, however, was conducted in the aftermath of the attacks in Libya and Egypt, and in the midst of the firestorm surrounding the leaked video of Romney dismissing 47 percent of Americans as “dependent on government.”

The surveys show Romney’s personal favorability rating under water in all three states. In Iowa, 42 percent of voters have a favorable impression of Romney, while 50 percent have an unfavorable one. The split is 43 percent to 50 percent in Colorado and 43 percent to 46 percent in Wisconsin.

Like the other polls, the president has appeared to close the gap on the question of which candidate would do a better job of handling the economy. Romney edges the president on that score in Wisconsin, 46 percent to 45 percent. But the president is slightly ahead in Colorado (48 percent to 46 percent) and up four points (47 percent to 43 percent) in Iowa.

Gwen Ifill tackles the latest horse race numbers in her blog, but cautions: “It’s tough — and a bit arrogant — to call the election in mid-September, before a single debate has been held or vote cast.”

BATH SALTS

NewsHour reporter-producer Jenny Marder spent months researching for a story about the dangerous group of street drugs known collectively as bath salts.

Her story looks at a family whose life was tragically altered by bath salts, the struggle by lawmakers to control them on the street, and a team of researchers who are studying the drugs’ ingredients and trying to understand what makes it so uniquely potent.

Read the entire piece here.

On Thursday’s NewsHour, Judy talked with Louis De Felice, a neuroscientist at the VCU School of Medicine about the rise in use of bath salts. You can watch the segment here or below.

UPDATE FROM THE HILL

NewsHour coordinating producer Linda J. Scott reported from Capitol Hill on Thursday about some shenanigans on the Senate floor as Republicans blasted the Obama administration on foreign policy, the economy, unemployment, energy policy, national security, gas prices, the debt and deficits.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called it “shameful” that the Senate has not yet dealt with the defense authorization bill; others called the Democratic-led chamber a “do-nothing” body.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., complained that the parade of speeches was a “remarkable show of hubris and arrogance” and blamed the GOP for using the filibuster to block his party’s agenda.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., piled on: “One minute speeches on the floor in one day will not erase two years of obstruction. When Americans were hurting the most, Republicans chose confrontation.”

ADDING IT UP

With seven weeks to go in the presidential contest, CMAG tallied the campaign ads on the air and found “all eight original battleground states have seen more spending on TV advertising for the presidential general election race than they saw for the entire general election campaign in 2008.”

In New Hampshire, it’s 223 percent of what ran in 2008, while North Carolina is seeing 195 percent.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • The NewsHour took a look at how President Obama and Romney presented themselves at the Univision forum.
  • NewsHour politics production assistant Alex Bruns dove into the Libertarian movement and what’s next after Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.
  • Ann Romney addressed GOP criticism of her husband’s campaign during an interview Thursday with Radio Iowa.
  • The president is leading Romney in Wisconsin, 52 percent to 45 percent, according to a new Public Policy Polling automated survey.
  • Ray Suarez talked with an Ohio state senator who has made fighting voter disenfranchisement her political quest.
  • The Washington Post reports on conservative groups working on voter mobilzation efforts.
  • In the quirkiest political blog post of the day, the Atlantic finds an ironic Romney Tumblr and reminds him: There’s always money in the banana stand.
  • This is an actual presidential corn maze in Iowa. For those in the Washington, D.C.-area, Terence recommends Lawyers Moonlight Maze in Thurmont, Md. Be sure to test out the pumpkin cannon.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is expected to be cleared of ethics charges Friday, Roll Call reports.
  • The Boston Globe’s Glen Johnson writes up Thursday night’s Massachusetts Senate debate and suggests that GOP Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren “largely achieved their objectives.”
  • Slate’s Dave Weigel says that Democrat Tim Kaine’s response to the how-do-you-handle-income-tax-and-47-percenters question at a debate against GOP rival George Allen for a Virginia Senate seat was “one of the most obvious unforced errors I’ve ever seen.” Kaine adviser Mo Elleithee disagrees.
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee outraised its GOP counterpart in August.
  • Let’s all take a moment and freak out. The cast of “The West Wing” has reunited to film a four-minute campaign ad.
  • Monica Lewinsky will write a tell-all memoir — for $12 million. It may include love letters to former president Bill Clinton that she never had the courage to send.
  • The ice in the Arctic Sea has melted to historic lows.
  • Christina is speaking at the Mashable Social Good Summit on Sunday about our partners at ShoutAbout.
  • Did you miss Christina’s Twitter chat with Sasha Issenberg about his book “The Victory Lab”? Here’s the archive.
  • In our continuing exploration of how animals meet politics, we present to you Celebirding.

Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Paul Ryan addresses the AARP in New Orleans at 12:35 p.m.
  • President Obama attends a campaign event in Woodbridge, Va., at 12:45 p.m.
  • Vice President Biden and Jill Biden campaign in New Hampshire with events in Hanover at 1:15 p.m. and Concord at 5:20 p.m.
  • Mitt Romney attends a rally in Las Vegas at 5:05 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

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