The epic price tag on the 2012 presidential campaign made clear to Republicans that money can't buy everything. The Romney campaign, along with its supporting committees, outspent the Obama team, $1.51 billion to $1.43 billion, according to final campaign finance data released Thursday.
President Obama pulled in $1.4 billion from his committee alone to secure his two terms in the White House. His campaign raised just under $730 million during the 2012 presidential cycle according to campaign finance reports, dwarfing the Romney camp's $473 million haul.
The bulk of the spending came in the final two-week sprint, during which Obama was the bigger spender. The Democratic ticket dropped $176 million after having raised over $88 million during that time period, compared to the $66 million raised and $107 million spent by Romney. Super PACs plunged in: the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future added an additional $45 million spending boost to the GOP campaign in the final weeks, according to The Center for Responsive Politics.
Traditional spending on past presidential races now seems like chump change, thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling which legalized unfettered sums from often anonymous cash sources.
But despite a clear advantage on the outside spending front, Republican-backed groups received dismal returns on their investments.
High expectations rode on the outside spending from American Crossroads, the super PAC groups launched by Karl Rove who was the mastermind of George W. Bush's fundraising. But Rove dramatically failed to deliver. According to a study by the campaign finance watchdog group The Sunlight Foundation, Rove made only a 1.3% return on his investment, with only about 1% of money benefiting the group's chosen candidate.
As for the Las Vegas casino magnet Sheldon Adelson, he and his wife bet nearly $150 million of their own cash this election cycle, setting a precedent on the level of influence a single man can attempt to wield. First he backed Newt Gingrich, who lost the GOP primary to Mitt Romney. Then Adelson backed the GOP nominee...who also lost. An expensive outing to the political casino.