This season, the high cost of the election means Obama and Romney are getting early Christmas gifts: wads of cash from their loyal donors. Obama socked away $241 million as of May, while Romney had $98 million. Whoever wins, the cost of this election will be the highest in U.S. history.
Where does all that money come from? It depends on the candidate.
Romney’s donors tend to give twice as much as Obama’s ($136 versus $56, on average) and more of his donors give big gifts of $200 or more. That means Obama relied heavily on smaller donations, and Romney gets most of his from big gifts. So how does Obama still have more money in the bank? A lot more donors: we estimate about six times more than Romney, or 4.3 million.
No matter how they do it, politicians manage to raise the cost of election every season; and so raise the influence of their donors. Even as they compete with each other, both Obama and Romney are making money the number one issue.