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Obama's Out of Control Spending Part Deux

9:37 AM, Jul 18, 2008 • By JAIME SNEIDER
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Marc Ambinder responds to my post about Obama's burn rate. He says, "it's almost absurd to compare the Obama campaign's primary burn rate -- which, incidentally, is a percentage, not an aboslute (sic) figure -- to McCain's for June." But I'm not just comparing Obama's spending to McCain's in the last month -- I'm comparing what he's spending now to every presidential campaign in history.

Obama's recent television buy costs about $650,000 a day. That's $19.5 million for the month. His campaign's non-media related expenses in May, when he had a mere 700 employees, was another $23 million. Toss in a few million for the doubling of the staff and all the bells and whistles, and Obama's spending is barely sustained by his current fundraising.

Obama's spending is absolutely unprecedented, and it's not clear his fundraising will sustain it through the election. Fifty-two million is an impressive sum, but keep in mind it was in large part supported by Hillary contributors giving for the first time. In May, Obama only raised $22 million, and there's no reason to assume those levels -- impressive by historical standards but a financial train wreck given his burn-rate -- won't return.

Obama's strategy could work, and if it does, it will change how presidential campaigns are run. But I think there are plenty of reasons to suspect it won't. In the first place, polls haven't shifted in Obama's favor despite fundraising and lavish spending. As of July 1, Obama had spent nearly $92 million compared to McCain's $11 million on broadcast media. When one factors in the potential bad press Obama will get if he needs to fire hundreds of people come the end of August when fundraising falls below historical records, not to mention the time he's spending to raise the money -- his Internet fundraising lagged the last couple months, and he's had to host more traditional fundraisers to make up the difference -- refusing public financing won't necessarily give Obama such a large advantage.