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The Republican-run American Crossroads super PAC and its nonprofit affiliate, Crossroads GPS, for example, have doubled their combined fundraising target to $240 million for 2012. The Crossroads operation has spent more than $20 million so far. An Obama-friendly super PAC started by two White House aides known as Priorities USA Action, by contrast, has a $100 million target and has only spent about $1 million.
“We knew we’d be outspent, but we can keep up with them in terms of our message and being smart about where we target our efforts,” said one Priorities USA Action organizer. Still, this disparity has prompted top Democrats to convene strategy sessions and donor briefings aimed at closing the gap.
For the two major political parties, fundraising is a mixed bag so far. Both the Democratic and Republican party committees at the national and state level had raised more by the close of the third quarter than they had at the same point in 2007.
But fundraising has been uneven on both sides of the aisle. Assisted by Obama, the Democratic National Committee had pulled in $84.8 million by the close of the third quarter, a big jump over the $40.5 million that the DNC had collected at the same point in 2007. But fundraising at the Democratic committees backing House and Senate candidates was down slightly.
Republicans also raised more overall but lost ground at the Republican National Committee and at the state and local level, while the House and Senate GOP party committees reported increases at the third-quarter mark.
Whatever the cause, political advertising was way down in Iowa and New Hampshire as of early December. Combined advertising by campaigns and political groups in those two states totaled $3.7 million as of Dec. 6, according to a New York Times report citing data from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. At the same point in 2007, political ads in those states was more than 10 times that amount, at $34.6 million.
“You’ve got to raise it before you can spend it,” said Ken Goldstein, president of CMAG. However, both states saw an ad surge by candidates and super PACs in late December. As the campaign accelerates, Goldstein predicted, campaign spending will once again break records, fueled in part by the super PACs that have now joined the ad wars.
“There has been less TV advertising,” Goldstein acknowledged, but he added: “That says nothing about what’s still going to be an enormous TV advertising air war in 2012.”