How Much Will Mitt Spend?

I have believed all year that Newt Gingrich has been, in effect, running for President this whole time, and has merely been plotting out his best timing for entry while subtly sabotaging the other candidates. Over the past several days, he has been suggesting to reporters that he will start taking "pledges" in October, and if he gets $30 million pledged by early November, he'll run.

This was very carefully timed, I would suggest, to stop conservatives from contributing to the other GOP candidates in these final couple of weeks in the 3rd quarter, when Mitt, Fred, and the others are desperately trolling for donations. Hold your money for me, Newt sez.

It also does a couple of other things. It's a huge put-down of Fred Thompson, whom Gingrich had previously touted as perhaps the great conservative candidate that would make his own candidacy unnecessary. He did the same thing to Romney, too: pump him up to tear him down.

Also, it sets a bar for the media to measure those 3rd quarter reports, which will be released just before Newt starts his pledge drive. Newt sez you need $30 mil in the bank to campaign. Fred's not going to be close to that; neither will McCain or Huckabee. Giuliani should be in the ballpark, but probably a little shy of the mark.

Then there's Romney. Through June, Romney had raised roughly $35m in contributions, spent roughly $32m, and loaned his campagn nearly $9m, showing $12 on hand.

Marc Ambinger of the Atlantic says that Romney will raise $10-$12m in the 3rd Q, and loan the campaign another $5m. That sounds about right to me. Problem is, Romney was already spending $7m+ a month in early summer, and his mammoth staff and aggressive advertising have, if anything, grown since then -- plus he dumped a couple mil, easy, on the Ames Straw Poll in August. So I have to believe that Romney will show spending of at least another $20m in the 3rd quarter, if not $25m.

All of which suggests that Romney will show cash on hand at the end of September of maybe $5m, even after dumping $14 million of his own megabucks into the kitty.

Up to now, Romney has been able to take and maintain the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire by a combination of being the only one advertising, and the weakness of the field. Now, he'll be heading into three months of multimillion-dollar ad buys from Fred, Rudy, and Newt, and significant buys from McCain, Huckabee, Tancredo, and Ron Paul. And he can't count on any big influx of contributions for a while.

This is all a long-winded way of saying: Romney now faces the need to spend probably another $20 million from his own pocket just to get to the Iowa caucuses, making a total personal cost of some $35m. I've always believed he's willing to spend that kind of dough on this campaign, but we'll soon find out.

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