WASHINGTON -- It's official. President Barack Obama has raised $1 billion for his 2012 reelection campaign. That money includes funds raised for the official campaign committee (Obama for America), the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and the Obama Victory Fund and Swing State Victory Fund, both of which have transferred millions to state parties to man the campaign's efforts to bring out voters.
The only catch to this historic milestone: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is on track to also raise $1 billion in funds for his campaign committee, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and his joint fundraising committee, Romney Victory.
The Obama campaign topped the historic mark midway through October. For Obama, the victory comes after Obama campaign manager Jim Messina called talk that the campaign could break the billion mark "bullshit" last December.
Pre-general election reports filed by the campaigns on Thursday revealed that Team Romney had raked in $111.8 million in the first half of October, taking the campaign's total to $951 million. Team Obama trailed Team Romney, bringing in $90.5 million in funds raised in October, perhaps due to Obama's poor performance at the first presidential debate. That figure brought the Team Obama total to $1.06 billion.
The final campaign finance disclosures before the presidential campaign culminates on Nov. 6 reveal two campaigns raising unprecedented sums of money, albeit in very different ways.
While Obama has centralized money in his official campaign and then decentralized the national party committee's money into party organizations for swing states, the Romney campaign has done the opposite. Romney has raised less for the official party campaign, hoarding cash for the home stretch at the RNC, and relied for much of the campaign on the collection efforts of independent super PACs and conservative nonprofits, which have run half of the campaign's ads for them.
These fundraising and spending strategies, whether adopted on purpose or out of necessity, have helped to mold each campaign's advertising and get-out-the-vote operations in different ways.
The official committees run by the candidates have never been close in terms of fundraising. In the first half of October, the official Obama campaign committee, Obama for America, raised $77 million, while Romney's official committee raised $51.8 million.
Despite worries about an enthusiasm gap in fundraising, the 2012 reelection campaign is now at near parity with the 2008 Obama for America effort, which ultimately raised a record $750 million. Since launching in April 2011, the reelection campaign committee has raised a total of $642 million, just shy of the $646 million the 2008 Obama campaign raised over the same time period. The official Romney campaign committee has raised only $393 million over the same period of time.
The financing has provided a large advantage for the Obama camp in terms of control. The campaign has run more ads under its own banner and under its own control, all while operating a massive staff spread throughout the country, which has been helping to train organizers and volunteers for months. The Obama committee entered the home stretch with $93.6 million in cash on hand, compared to Romney for President's $52 million.
Romney has relied heavily on RNC fundraising. The committee has raised a total of $350 million to help elect the former Massachusetts governor. That is compared to the total of $276 million raised by the DNC. After routinely posting much larger sums than the DNC month after month, the RNC's total raised at the beginning of October was relatively close to its Democratic counterpart. The RNC raised $19.8 million in the first weeks of October, compared to $13.8 million raised by the DNC.
The main difference between the party committees has been what they do with the money. The RNC has largely hoarded its money, entering October with a cash-on-hand total of $82.5 million. The DNC, in contrast, has been transferring huge sums to swing-state party organizations, which have spent the past year hiring 3,000 organizers and training thousands of volunteers to boost registration and to get people to vote both early and on election day. Those Democratic swing-state parties had raised $101 million at the beginning of October, compared to $52 million raised for the Republican swing-state parties. While the Democratic swing-state parties are under the control of the Obama campaign, the Republican swing-state parties remain directed by the RNC and not the Romney campaign.
The RNC and four state parties funded by the Romney Victory committee began to make large transfers into swing-state parties in the beginning of October, although not enough to catch up to the Democrats' advantage. The question, though, is whether these transfers are coming too late to fund efforts to get out the vote.
In total, Team Romney started the final three weeks of the campaign with $169 million in its three main campaign committees. Team Obama had $123 million in cash on hand for the home stretch.
The Romney campaign advantage here only applies to the RNC and Romney Victory, which will both be sending more money to swing states to get their supporters to the polls. The Obama campaign's cash deficit at the DNC and in the joint fundraising committees is largely due to the fact that large transfers have already been made to swing-state parties, fueling successful efforts to register new voters and to get supporters to vote early.
An article by The Huffington Post's Sam Stein and Sabrina Saddiqui questioned whether there are diminishing returns on the funds spent this late in the campaign. The worst way to spend money at this point, according to campaign operatives, is on television ads.
"TV, at this stage, is incredibly expensive, and I think we have long passed diminishing margins of returns in the Senate and White House races," AFL-CIO Political Director Mike Podhorzer told Stein and Saddiqui.
Despite Podhorzer's comments, the Obama campaign spent $49.5 million on television advertising from Oct. 1 to Oct. 17. The Romney campaign, which leans on the efforts of independent groups to carry the advertising burden, spent $31.7 million during the same period.
Podhorzer also said that get-out-the-vote efforts like mailers with follow-up phone calls are more likely to move voters. The question remains whether this kind of effort can make a difference for the Republicans in just a month's time, or whether it requires the kind of long-term investment made by the Obama campaign.
During a conference call about his campaign's operation in Virginia, Obama's national field director said, "We've invested for years and we've invested early in Virginia." He also made a side-swipe at the Republicans' late investment, saying, "You cannot fake a real ground game."
The RNC's political director Rick Wiley dismissed the Obama campaign's field operation to The Atlantic's Molly Ball. "The Obama campaign thinks, 'If we put 100 offices in this state, we're going to win,'" Wiley said. "We take a smaller, smarter approach, just like we do for government. I will guarantee you they have three times as many offices in Wisconsin as we do. We decided we needed 24. Bush-Cheney in 2004 had 10."
Early voting numbers appear to favor the Obama campaign. In Ohio and North Carolina, along with other key swing states, early voters are breaking heavily for Democrats, and their numbers are matching or exceeding 2008.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that the Romney campaign had also raised $1 billion. It has not.