(CBS News) Like in any presidential election, persuading voters is the ultimate task, but this year, President Obama and Mitt Romney have been busier than ever courting donors to bankroll their high-priced campaigns, leading to less interaction with voters than previous presidential candidates.
As Romney deals with the criticism over his comments where he suggested that "47 percent" of Americans would never vote for him, he's come under scrutiny from some Republicans who say he should go out and actually meet more voters.
"I think what Romney needs to do is get into Virginia and run for sheriff. This is not rocket science," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, according to the Wall Street Journal. "Being in Utah to raise money is necessary, but he doesn't have to be there, in my view...If I were Mitt Romney, no person in Virginia could go very long without meeting me."
Since his "47 percent" comments surfaced Monday, Romney has held only two full-fledged campaign events - a light public schedule that's par for the course in recent weeks. Since August 15, Romney has held 22 full-fledged campaign events, according to a CBSNews.com analysis of his campaign schedule.
And before his critics render judgment on his schedule, President Obama has employed a similar light campaign event load, holding only 30 full-fledged campaign events between August 15 and September 21, fewer than the presidential candidates held in 2008 and 2004. (CBSNews.com is defining "full-fledged campaign events" as rallies, town meeting-style events, roundtable discussions and any pre-scheduled event in which the candidates speak to crowds of voters)
As a candidate in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama held 45 public campaign rallies or town halls between August 15 and September 21, and his opponent, Sen. John McCain, held 29 campaign events in the same time frame. Although McCain's nearly number matches Mr. Obama's current tally, McCain's schedule included at least five days off the trail while vacationing at his home in Sedona, Ariz.
In 2004, when Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was running against incumbent President George W. Bush, he held more than twice as many campaign events than Romney - 45 - between August 15 and September 21, a period in which Kerry also took three days off the trail. For his part, Mr. Bush held 46 campaign events during that 38-day time frame, and that included nine days away from the White House and the trail at his ranch in Crawford, Tex.
Fewer voter-focused campaign events "may be the new normal," Steve Schier, political science professor at Carleton College, told CBS News. That's because, for the first time since the presidential, both candidates have opted out of public financing, which would have provided Mr. Obama and Romney with $91.2 million each for the general election. Mr. Obama broke the common practice of accepting public financing in 2008 as he was adding to his record-breaking fundraising haul. Traditionally, since presidential candidates didn't have to raise funds for their general election campaigns, their attendance at fundraisers waned significantly after accepting their parties' nominations. Not so, this year.
In fact, publicly-financed presidential campaigns have proved to be a drop in the bucket compared to what the candidates are able to raise. For instance, both candidates surpassed the allowable public financing total in just one month, with President Obama raising $114 million and Romney raising $111 million in August alone. (Both campaigns, in coordination with their respective parties, have raised almost $1 billion combined through the end of August.)
"Romney has had a light schedule this month and it's because he's been out raising money," Schier said. "More time is spent fundraising and less time on traditional campaign events."