It's Costing Romney a Fortune to Buy the Election

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It's not that Mitt Romney's money is no good in the Republican primary, it's just that his money buys a lot less than everyone else's. It's like Mitt Romney's political donations come in another currency -- BerkShares, perhaps? -- and the exchange rate in the Republican primary isn't great. Romney has vastly outspent his competitors for the Republican nomination with not-so-vast success. Here's our analysis of what Romney bought so far, based on the financial disclosure forms released Monday.

The New York Times reports that 44 percent of Romney's donors maxed out. While that's bad in the long run, it's theoretically good in the short run. Thats because just like in business, in campaign fundraising, you have to spend money to make money. And you have to spend less money to make money from bigger donors. So Romney should have used proportionally less of his money to raise more money, freeing him up to convince voters that he's His was able to spend $10 million on communicating with voters, ABC News reports. The campaign used a super-expensive system to microtarget voters based on all kinds of consumer information, like how much they loved Williams Sonoma. Which makes these results even less impressive:

  • Romney raised $6.5 million in January.
  • Romney spent $19 million on the first four votes.
  • Romney won two of the votes, and lost two. Then, in February, he won two more and lost three.

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Compare that to Rick Santorum's money-for-votes record: 

  • Santorum raised $4.5 million in January.
  • Santorum spent $3.3 million in January.
  • Santorum won one primary in January. The next month, he lost two and won three.

That's despite the fact that Santorum was stuck in third place in national polls all of January, and that just $852,000 of his donations came from people giving $1,000 or more. Romney peaked in polls in January, right around when he destroyed his opponents in the New Hampshire primary. You would think that would mean money would rush in. (Barack Obama raised $32 million in January 2008, while Hillary Clinton raised $13.5 million, The Times points out.) But the cash didn't come, at least, not in the waves that his rivals raised. Newt Gingrich took in almost as much money as Romney -- $5.6 million -- even though he was being trashed by tons of conservative leaders on TV as a socialist panderer who wanted a moon colony.

Romney started with a huge financial advantage -- he raised $56 million in 2011. He began this campaign, as Politico reported in August 2010, using a fundraising strategy he pioneered in 2006 -- using state political action committees to allow him to raise more money from high-dollar contributors.  Romney hasn't started tapping his own impressive wealth to get his mediocre results. In April of last year, he began his 2012 campaign by forgiving the last $250,000 he'd loaned to his 2008 campaign. He'd already written off the rest of the $45 million he spent losing the 2008 primary.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.