Campaign Contribution Totals Reveal Complex Picture

Monday night was the deadline for reporting July's contributions and expenses for the presidential candidates and the superPACS supporting them. While GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney widened his cash advantage over President Obama, other numbers give a more detailed picture of the race.

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A moment ago we heard warnings that Todd Akin will lose financial support if he stays in the race. For a campaign, of course, money is like oxygen, and the presidential campaigns have set out their latest reports on how they're breathing. President Obama and Mitt Romney each have an advantage, depending on which bank account you're looking at. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Let's start with $5,000, the online contribution that President Obama made to his own campaign. They made it into a fundraising video. Here he's disclosing his employer.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: United States of America, and my occupation is president.

OVERBY: And that five grand turns up on the new report, along with more than $39 million from other donors to Obama for America. That's almost $11 million more than was raised last month by Romney for President. But when you add in the rest of each candidate's organization, the national party and the joint fundraising committees, Romney easily outran Mr. Obama, and once again increased his advantage in cash on hand.

And here's where it gets tricky. Michael Malbin, director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, says not all dollars are created equal. Malbin says that if you add up all the elements of the Romney operation...

MICHAEL MALBIN: Romney has a three-to-two advantage in cash today. If you just look at the candidate committee by itself, Obama has a three-to-one advantage.

OVERBY: And candidate committee money is more versatile than other money. So the Obama campaign could spend big early on for field operations. It has 32 offices in Colorado, Romney has 10. In Iowa it's 17 to 11, as Romney races to catch up. But meanwhile, other dollars are flooding into TV stations, 350 million since May 1 in the 10 battleground states. This is according to an NPR analysis of advertising data compiled by National Journal.

The Obama campaign is outspending the Romney campaign better than two to one, but overall, 56 percent of the ad spending is pro-Romney. That's mainly because of secretly financed social welfare organizations. The biggest spenders: Crossroads GPS, which has Karl Rove as an advisor, and Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the billionaire Koch brothers. They're attacking Mr. Obama directly with ads like this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's not the hope and change I want. It's not the hope and change I thought I was going to get. I don't feel that I helped by grandchildren by voting for President Obama, and I regret that.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Americans for Prosperity is responsible for the content of this advertising.

OVERBY: Michael Malbin, the campaign finance analyst, says it's too soon to say which will win out, the TV ads or the ground game. Here's what he does say - both candidates are chasing big donors at the expense of voters, and Malbin says the campaigns know it.

MALBIN: Every day that Romney goes to Texas or Obama goes to New York is bad for the campaign. It's good for the money, but they would rather have them in Virginia, Florida, or Ohio.

OVERBY: And so far it seems that neither candidate can walk away from the prospect of big bucks. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

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