Karl Rove is absolutely delighted at the Obama campaign's burn rate -- how many millions more dollars it's spending than it's bringing through fundraising -- six month before the election. But is this a sign of a campaign struggling or a campaign hard at work?
President Obama's campaign is spending a lot of money really fast -- last month, it spent $15 million more than it raised. Rove has been writing about the subject for several months, but finds new things to get excited about with every Federal Election Commission filing. In March, Obama's problem was his huge staff. On Thursday, it's that he's spending so much money on ads.
Last month, The Wall Street Journal's Danny Yadron reported that the Obama campaign was spending about half of its money on a huge organization -- 631 employees, 300 of them at the headquarters in Chicago. Payroll was $2.5 million in April. (Romney, by contrast, spent $511,500 on payroll for 91 workers.) And the Obama staff is still growing. New FEC filings show that in May, Obama spent slightly more -- $2.6 million -- on payroll in May. Rove noticed this in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in March. Obama's campaign spent 25 percent of what it raised in the second quarter of 2011, Rove said, while George W. Bush's 2004 campaign spent just 9 percent of what it raised in the second quarter of 2003. Obama spent 46 percent in the third quarter while Bush spent 26 percent, in the fourth, it was 57 percent to 40 percent, and in January 2012, it was 158 percent to 60 percent. Rove said it was because Obama had a huge staff:
The Obama campaign's high burn rate doesn't come from large television buys, phone banks or mail programs that could be immediately stopped. It appears to result instead from huge fixed costs for a big staff and higher-than-expected fundraising outlays. These are much tougher to unwind or delay.
But now, Rove diagnoses the problem differently. Now Obama is blowing all his money on ads, and it won't help him because there are so many outside groups -- like Rove's own -- to make up for Romney's smaller war chest. From early May to early July, Rove says, Obama will have spent $58 million on ads, plus $10 million on ads from supporters. The balance is reversed with his competition: Romney will have spent $15 million on ads, while conservative allies will have spent $51 million.