It was only about one year ago that Republicans – not knowing who their nominee would be – were bracing for a presidential campaign where President Obama would have an unlimited campaign war chest while their candidate scraped by with only a great message and limited funds. That is not the case today.
Today, Republicans know who their nominee is (it will be official in one week) and according to fundraising totals through the end of July, they know how much money is in both presidential bank accounts.
Romney and the Republican National Committee raised an astounding $101 million in July and it is the third consecutive month the campaign has hit triple digits. Obama and the Democrats took in $75 million.
In addition to the joint bank accounts each candidate share with their respective parties, both the RNC and the DNC raise and spend their own funds. In July, the RNC hauled in $37.7 million compared to the DNC's $8.8 million. When added to the prior month's balance, the Republicans have $88.8 million on the ledger while the Democrats have $15.4 million in their account.
What has many Democrats concerned is that for the past several months Obama has spent money at a faster pace than Romney while taking in less. In July, the Obama campaign spent $58.5 million and the Romney campaign spent $32.3 million. Most of the funds spent by both sides went for advertising and ad placement.
However, to gain a rational understanding of exactly where the candidates stand it is important to look at their financial picture from a 30,000-foot viewpoint.
Obama raised and spent $750 million to win the White House in 2008 and has been replenishing his account ever since. On the other hand, Romney had to start from scratch and run a competitive primary against as many as eight other GOP hopefuls. Much of what he has in the bank today cannot be spent until he is officially nominated in Tampa, Fla., next week.
From the perspective of each individual candidate, at the end of July Romney had $30.2 million cash on hand while Obama had $87.7 million.
Michael Malbin runs the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute in Washington and says when everything is taken into account, Obama is still in a more desirable position.
"Romney is ahead when you combine it all together but some of his money is going to be less efficient," Malbin told Reuters. "Obama is way ahead in the most flexible (money that can be spent today) pile. The broad picture, the step back is that the Obama campaign has a stronger financial position than the Romney campaign."
But the major difference between this election cycle and 2008 is that both candidates chose not to accept public financing and that Super PACs can raise and spend an almost unlimited amount of money.
The system of public financing was originally intended to help outside candidates (such as Obama was in 2008) have the ability to compete with incumbent presidents. The Obama campaign cites the ability to raise money on the Internet as one of the main reasons not to accept public financing.
Super PACs are impacting the race like never before, given the amount of unlimited funds they can raise and spend.
Restore Our Future, the Super PAC devoted to Romney, raised $7.5 million in July. Two million of that came from a wealthy homebuilder in Houston.
Priorities USA Action, the Super PAC devoted to Obama, raised $4.8 million in July.