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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cash Advantage for Romney as Campaign Enters Final Weeks

Mitt Romney and the Republicans entered October with a cash advantage of more $34 million over President Obama and the Democrats, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday, as heavy spending by Mr. Obama offset his stronger fund-raising during the past two months.

Mr. Romney, the Republican National Committee, and their joint fund-raising committee ended September with $183 million in cash on hand, compared to $149 million for Mr. Obama, the Democratic National Committee, and their joint fund-raising effort, giving the Republicans a significant cash advantage just as the race began to swing in Mr. Romney's favor in early October.

The filings show little evidence of jitters or second-thoughts on the part of Republican donors during September, a month when Mr. Romney lagged in some polls and appeared to shift messages almost daily in an effort to find purchase on Mr. Obama. And Mr. Obama's high burn rate in September - his camp aign alone spent $116 million dollars - has largely erased one of his biggest financial advantages over Mr Romney. Whereas Mr. Obama once held far more money in his own campaign account, giving the Democrats more flexibility in spending and lower rates for much of their advertising, Mr. Romney has narrowed the gap, ending September with $62 million in his campaign account compared to Mr. Obama's $99 million.

After struggling over the summer with cash flow problems that forced him to take out a $20 million loan, Mr. Romney began tapping into his general election funds in September, while the Republican National Committee continued to far outpace the Democratic National Committee in overall fund-raising for the month. The Republican committee pulled in $48 million in contributions, ending with almost $83 million in cash on hand. The Democratic committee raised about $8 million and had so much debt that it ended September in the red.

The cash positions reflect risks for both candidates as the enter the final weeks of the campaign. Mr. Obama invested tens of millions of dollars in early voter outreach and field offices - in part to prepare for early voting in many states - and was forced to spend heavily on advertising against Mr. Romney over the summer, money that was largely matched by conservative super PACs and outside groups. Now he has less money to spend at a time when some polls show him trailing Mr. Romney in key swing states.

But Mr. Romney, whose cash flow grew so constrained in August that he was forced to take out a $20 million bridge loan, faces an opposite problem: He must spend even more aggressively now if he wants to equal Mr. Obama's investments in the field, and has less time in which to do it.

And despite an uptick in giving to the leading Democratic super PACs, including the one backing Mr. Obama, overall outside spending continues to benefit Republicans more than Dem ocrats. Conservative groups have spent $463 million, more than twice as much as the $194 million spent by conservative groups.

Over the past week, according to a Republican tracking media purchases, the Romney campaign, the R.N.C., and Republican-aligned groups spent about $34.6 million in the presidential race. Mr. Obama, the Democrats, and liberal groups spent about $24.4 million, a gap of more than $10 million.