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Obama campaign burns through cash with little to show for its negative ad barrage

Newly released figures show that the Barack Obama re-election campaign spent $38.2-million in TV advertisements in June – an overwhelming number of which attack Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital.

And the result: a tight election race that looks very similar to the political landscape before the Obama barrage began.

Add to that a Republican fundraising machine that is outpacing Mr. Obama and his supporters, causing many Democrats to worry about the campaign's ability to finance its strategy deeper into the campaigning season.

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"Unless fundraising picks up, the Obama campaign may enter the season's final stretch confronting hard choices: paring salaries, scaling back advertising or pulling out of swing states in a bid to control costs," says the Wall Street Journal, quoting Democrats concerned about the campaign's cash "burn rate."

Here are the key findings to come out of Friday's filings to the Federal Election Commission:

  • The Obama campaign spent more in June – $58-million – than it took in: $46-million.
  • Mr. Romney’s campaign significantly increased its own spending in June – $27-million – of which $10.4-million was spent on advertising, which is about a quarter of what the Obama campaign spent on advertising during the same period. The campaign took in $33-million.
  • As the campaigns stepped in to July, Mr. Romney and his allies held an overall advantage with $170-million on hand versus Mr. Obama and his allies with $147-million.

Both campaigns have turned overwhelmingly to negative ads.

Beginning at the end of June, according to New York-based Kantar Media's CMAG, a prominent political ad tracking firm, the Obama campaign has run more negative ads than it has in the entire 11 weeks prior.

And here is an interesting breakdown of how the polls have moved since the Obama campaign started its negative campaign ad blitz:

"On average, the polls have moved two-tenths of a point toward the president during this time period," writes Sean Trende, senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics.

"If we look at only the swingiest of swing states – Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia – we see about two-thirds of a point movement toward Obama. That's not much bang for the buck," writes Mr. Trende.

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"The superficial takeaway is that this is bad news for the president. He's unleashed something of a 'shock and awe' campaign and fired off what many think is one of his most damaging bullets against Romney, with little to show for it."

A big reason for the Obama campaign ad blitz is a realization that political action committees – called Super PACs – that are allied to Mr. Romney have had tremendous success raising money and are putting that money to work by purchasing TV ad time to attack Mr. Obama.

In June, the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore our Future raised a record $20.6-million.

"Its top patrons: Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who together pumped $10-million into the organization in June. The Adelsons and their family are on track to be the biggest personal spenders of the cycle," writes the Los Angeles Times.

Compare that June total to the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action, which raised $6-million in the same month.

In 2008, Mr. Obama raised more than $745-million and re-wrote the book on campaign fundraising. This year, Mr. Romney and his allies are likely to eclipse Mr. Obama's fundraising total four years ago.

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About the Author

Affan Chowdhry is the Globe's multimedia reporter specializing in foreign news. Prior to joining the Globe, he worked at the BBC World Service in London creating international news and current affairs programs and online content for a global audience. More

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