Mitt Romney's campaign has set a fundraising target of $800 million for this election cycle, setting up a race with President Obama that could see each side spending more than $1 billion by November. It also guarantees that, for the first time in a generation, neither candidate will accept public financing for their campaign.
The new "Romney Victory" fund — which we first mentioned yesterday — is a collaboration between the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee that, according to The New York Times, hopes to raise $500 million in donations from big-spending donors and "bundlers." They also hope to gain another $300 million in smaller contributions directly to the campaign. Add in another $200 million in Super PAC money (which is technically independent of the Republican effort, but will be spent by outside groups opposed to the President) and that could mean more than $1 billion spent in an effort to unseat the incumbent.
Of course, they have their work cut out for them. Romney, who had to fight a primary challenge against a large field of fellow Republicans, has "only" raised about $86 million so far. More money will certainly flow to him as the general election heats up and those who have been willing to support him so far latch on to the nominee. But President Obama has already raised around $350 million for his efforts, most of which has been sitting and waiting for an opponent that he can bury under it. He raised $53 million in March and he hasn't even really started campaigning yet. Considering that he raised $750 million in 2008, despite splitting Democratic support in a bitter primary fight himself, another billion from his side is also pretty likely.
No matter which side wins the money war, there's no doubt that this will be the most expensive presidential campaign of all time, dwarfing the races from even just four years. In that race, the two nominees — Obama and John McCain — set records by breaking the $1 billion mark between them, but that sum is no longer enough for even one candidate. And that doesn't even begin to account for the outside money that will also flood airwaves this fall. The totals have become so staggering that they almost defy complaints from those who wish to see someone put the brakes on money in politics. With so much being spent and seemingly no hope for reform, Americans may just have to resign themselves the fact that the money game is impossible to beat.