WASHINGTON -- The Republican National Committee announced this week that it had arranged for a post-campaign autopsy to figure out what exactly went wrong during the course of the 2012 election. The people leading the process would stand to benefit by looking at some of the top-line numbers.
Last Thursday, the final round of 2012 campaign finance reports were filed to the FEC, giving observers a complete picture as to what each side spent and prioritized during the process. The Huffington Post examined data going back to Jan. 1, 2011, looking at the figures from the Obama and Romney campaigns, each candidate's respective Victory Fund, the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee and their respective independent expenditure and coordinated expenditure arms.
The breakdown of top expenditures is below:
Republicans: $33.3 million
Democrats: $63.2 million
Republicans: $215 million
Democrats: $412 million
Television/ Radio ads, including "Media Production" and "Placement" services:
Republicans: $270 million
Democrats: $420 million
Republicans: $100.6 million
Democrats: $118.1 million
Republicans: $74.5 million
Democrats: $35.2 million
Republicans: $31 million
Democrats: $6.5 million
Republicans: $19.3 million
Democrats: $32.1 million
Total Operating Expenditures
Republicans: $885.6 million
Democrats: $919.3 million
A few things to note: These estimates were done based largely, but not entirely, on how each campaign defined their expenditures. For example, the Romney campaign filed much of their online ad spending as "digital consulting" and nearly all of that digital consulting was done by the firm Targeted Victory. Zac Moffatt, who served as Romney's top digital adviser, told The Huffington Post that about 88 percent of those payments were actually for the purchase of ads. HuffPost adjusted the numbers accordingly. Similarly, some spending categorized as "advertising" went to newspaper ads, which was filtered out and not included in the television and radio category.
The Huffington Post presented its numbers to aides from both campaigns. An Obama official confirmed that the salary number was correct but could not confirm the other figures, as the campaign's accounting shop was not working round the clock as it was during the election.
Still, the numbers do give a sense of the disadvantages Romney had during the campaign. His main problem, it seems, is that he got off to a much later start. Between April 2012 (when Rick Santorum finally dropped out of the Republican primary) and the end of August, the Romney campaign spent $46 million on ads. By contrast, by the end of August (when Romney was finally able to access general election funds) the Obama campaign had spent $176.5 million on ads. Romney was helped on the air by allied third-party groups and super PACs, but a $130 million margin is tough to make up.
It wasn't just the television wars where Romney suffered. Obama's ground game was far more robust, as the data shows. A $30 million difference in payroll is no small advantage, allowing the president's team to staff more offices in key battleground states and do the type of person-to-person persuasion that got voters to the polls. The Obama campaign's advantage here would likely be even greater when counting the thousands of staffers hired by swing-state Democratic Party committees with money transferred to them by the Obama campaign and the DNC.
Finally, Romney had to spend money to make money. Whereas Obama's digital fundraising apparatus gave him the freedom to put resources elsewhere, Romney had to lean on fundraising consultants and telemarketing to reach donors. The Republican National Committee, for example, spent more than $2.3 million on catering, including food, beverages and venues. It spent $2.5 million on donor file maintenance.
That spending did net Romney a historic amount of money for a Republican presidential candidate. But the cost was fairly high as well: more than one of every 10 dollars raised went toward raising more.
With additional reporting by Aaron Bycoffe.