Unlike past elections, Romney and Obama flush with cash
In the final days of the campaign, Mitt Romney is "expanding the map" with the purchase of TV ads in Pennsylvania and Minnesota - states not considered serious battlegrounds. President Obama's campaign has responded by purchasing their own ads on both those states and even added a third state, Pennsylvania, to respond to attacks from Republican super PACs.
The candidates are able to make these last-minute moves because they can afford to.
"There is a phenomenal amount of cash available," said Tad Devine, who served as senior strategist for both Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential run and Al Gore's 2000 race.
"Money makes a difference if you don't have enough of it, and that's not the case for either of these candidates," said Steve Schmidt, senior adviser for Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential race.
This is the first time since the implementation of the Presidential Election Campaign Fund in 1976 that both candidates have opted-out of the publicly-funded system, allowing the candidates to raise and spend as much as they want during the general election. (President Obama opted out in 2008 but Republican John McCain, a campaign finance reform supporter, took the public option and was capped at spending only the $84 million allocated by the fund in the general election.) If Romney and Mr. Obama accepted public financing, they would each have had $91 million from the public fund plus some party money to spend for the entire nine-week general election. Instead, they have over $100 million each for just the final three weeks.
Both Devine and Schmidt advised campaigns restricted by the confines of public financing, and they both said the final weeks of presidential campaign used to be filled with tough decisions driven by the balance sheet.
Devine recalled the 2000 campaign when then-candidate George W. Bush increased his spending on TV ads against Vice President Al Gore in Florida in the final weeks. Devine, who worked for Gore, made the decision to pull out of Ohio to counter Bush's onslaught in Florida.
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Schmidt said the McCain campaign in late 2008 was forced to make the difficult choice to stop airing TV ads in Michigan because of depleted funds. "We had to explore other theoretical paths to victory," Schmidt said.
Both are scenarios that neither Mr. Obama nor Romney have had to face. "There's not an example in this election where they're having to make a hard, cold-blooded decision," Schmidt said. He added that they are "certainly not pulling money out" of one place to contest in another. They get to do both.
"Campaigns are not making the difficult choices we used to have to make about resource allocation," Devine added. "They have so many more resources than we ever dreamed of having."
"The best types of campaigns are the ones where you don't have the CFO in the strategy meetings telling you what you can and can't do," Schmidt added.
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