A Tale Of Two Very Different Presidential Campaigns

As we enter the last two months of the U.S. presidential campaign, the polls show Barack Obama and Mitt Romney running neck-and-neck. Yet each has been (and is) running a very different campaign on his road to the White House.

Previously I wrote about how the two candidates are trying to position themselves and one another; Obama touting himself as having inherited a tough hand but making progress on the economy, while Romney positions himself as a businessman capable of turning the economy around and creating growth. At the same time, Obama wants to portray Romney as an out-of-touch one-percenter while Romney seeks to position Obama as a nice guy who has unfortunately failed at getting the country moving again. But beyond the positioning battle, let's look at how the two campaigns have spent their money so far and how they will try and finish the race.

Obama, who through July has raised about $588 million dollars (including the DNC and Super PACs) has spent much of it already, leaving him with about $130 million on hand. Using the same approach, Romney has raised about $524 million but has spent less, leaving him with roughly $197 million in his treasury, a $67 million advantage over the president.

Obama's spending to date has been focused on three goals; 1) an "air campaign" of traditional advertising to deposition Romney, 2) a sophisticated digital campaign to energize the base and attract independents and 3) a "ground game" infrastructure to mobilize the vote.

So far, the expenditures to deposition Romney do not appear to have paid off as the Real Clear Politics poll average shows that Romney has moved from being down a few points vs. Obama to being in a virtual tie with him as of early September. On the two other fronts it is too early to tell if either have been or will be successful; it will likely not be fully clear until election day, especially for the ground game portion. One concerning sign on the ground game is that Democratic registration is down by 800,000 voters in eight swing states (Republican registration is down as well, but only by 79,000, as many voters moved into the "independent" category).

Romney's strategy has been to husband much of his resources while depending on his Super PAC allies to deposition Obama in key states. While his campaign has made progress on the digital front and ground game infrastructure investments are being made, it appears a big push will be made in the last two months on a more traditional air war to win the contest.

Whose approach is the correct one won't be known til November 7th, and a complete analysis of what parts contributed to victory or defeat won't be possible til a few months after that. In the meantime, we can study the contrasts and hope our favored candidate has made the right call.

Who do you think has the winning strategy when it comes to his campaign, and why? Tell us about it in the comments.

[Image: Flickr user NewsHour]

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