Romney’s “little bit of disrespect” and fundraising woes

It’s been a tough week for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Stories of infighting in the campaign gave way to heavy media coverage of the leaked tape, in which he put down nearly half of the American population.

What was the “little bit of disrespect”?

One quasi-bright spot for Romney was his appearance at an event hosted by the Spanish language station Univision.  Appearing separately was President Obama. And while Obama has a huge lead among Hispanic voters, his reception was quiet, while Romney received cheers.

However, it turns out that reactions to Romney were due to special demands made by his campaign.

As reporter McKay Coppins notes, “the enthusiasm gap may have been an optical illusion formed by a series of last-minute demands by the Romney campaign.”

Only students were supposed to attend the event.

But after exhausting the few conservative groups on campus, the Romney camp realized there weren’t enough sympathetic students to fill the stands on their night — so they told the network and university that if they weren’t given an exemption to the students-only rule, they might have to “reschedule.”

The organizers relented. One Democrat with ties to the Obama campaign noted that Rudy Fernandez, the university official charged with coordinating the forums, is a member of Romney’s Hispanic steering committee. Fernandez did not respond to BuzzFeed’s questions about whether he gave preferential treatment to Romney’s campaign.

In any case, Romney’s team was allowed to bus in rowdy activists from around southern Florida in order to fill the extra seats at their town hall.

The noisiness of these activists, which broke the ground rules of the appearance, was what a Univision anchor called a “little bit of disrespect.” Romney himself almost refused to go on at the last minute because he didn’t like the introduction, which truthfully stated that that he had agreed to less time than Obama.

Meanwhile, Romney is facing fundraising problems

Over the course of the campaign, Romney has had stronger SuperPAC support than Obama.

However, it is now clear that he is lagging in contributions to his campaign organization, particularly from smaller donors.

Obama (left) and Romney (right) fundraising. Source: Center for Responsive Politics

Obama’s campaign has raised more money overall. Using data from the Federal Elections Commission, the Center for Responsive Politics shows the patterns when it comes to individual giving.

While Obama and Romney are not far apart on large contributions, there is a gulf on small contributions.

Several things are important about this difference:

1. More giving from small contributions can be seen a proxy for greater enthusiasm among supporters and a stronger, more effective campaign organization.  Those factors — enthusiasm and organization — help campaigns win, especially in close races. In a presidential race, the close races are swing states.

2. Romney’s inability to raise as much from small contributors has forced him off the campaign trail to raise money from big donors, like the people to whom he made the “47%” comment. This exacerbates Romney’s difficulties, since public activities like rallies yield free publicity from local media and rev up and help to organize activists. Thus he has to rely more on paid media, even as his campaign faces financial limits.

3. A number of recent Romney fundraisers have often taken place in states that are locked up for one candidate for another, places like California, New York, Texas and Utah. Again, these give him no benefit from local media coverage for visiting the state.

4. While the Romney SuperPACs are flush with cash, they and the Republican party cannot do certain things with their money that Romney’s campaign can. Obama’s campaign has run ads with him speaking directly to the camera. This sort of option is not available from the Romney SuperPACs.

So the big overall cash advantage for Romney — due to huge individual contributions to SuperPACs — appears to have limits.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.