Money Can't Buy Mitt Love (The Note)

Mary Ann Chastain/AP Photo

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter)

Mitt Romney's out-raising and out-spending the competition, but he still can't lock down the nomination.

Romney took in $6.5 million in January, but plowed through roughly $19 million on the first four primary and caucus states for a two-win, two-loss record. So far in February he's gone on to win two more and lose three other contests to the candidate who now appears to be his stiffest competition: Rick Santorum.

And the cost-benefit analysis becomes even more stark when you consider what the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, chipped in last month - a whopping $13.9 million, mostly to run negative television ads.

Romney's reaching voters, his efforts just aren't working as he planned. Consider it another reminder that money isn't everything, and that it certainly can't buy grassroots enthusiasm.

It's not just Romney and his allies who've learned that hard lesson. Newt Gingrich's campaign and a super PAC supporting his candidacy spent more than $15 million last month - much of it in advance of the Florida primary. Gingrich lost in the Sunshine State and now he's struggling to get back into the hunt.

It's also telling that while Romney raised more than any of his GOP rivals, both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich weren't far behind. Santorum accumulated $4.5 million in January and Gingrich amassed $5.6 million.

Of course, much has changed since Jan. 31. Romney started February with $7.7. million in his campaign's war chest but Santorum advisers have been reporting raising money at a rapid clip after the former Pennsylvania senator's wins earlier this month.

The other big takeaway from yesterday's campaign finance disclosures was the major influence of super PACs this cycle. As the Boston Globe's politics editor, Glen Johnson, notes: "Whereas in the past, candidates would have to drop out of the race because they could no longer raise the money to propel their candidacies, now Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich can continue thanks in large part to the support of a single backer who donates to a super PAC supporting them."

A case-in-point: The leaders of the pro-Santorum Red, White And Blue Fund announced this morning they are pouring another $600,000 into the Michigan fight - precious advertising time just as polls are showing signs of a tightening race ahead of the Feb. 28 primary.

But Santorum, who is losing the money race to Romney, is winning on one key measure: the latest Gallup tracking poll shows him 10 percentage points ahead of his main rival nationally.

WHAT ROMNEY SPENT. Romney won in both New Hampshire and Florida, and a review of the financial disclosure forms by ABC News reveals that much of the money spent over the course of the month was spent on reaching or communicating with voters - at a final price tag of more than $10 million, ABC's Emily Friedman notes. Placed media set the Romney campaign back more than $8 million in January alone, with online advertising costing $755,000. The campaign spent more than $600,000 on direct mail, $494,000 on polling and more than $14,000 on robocalls and telemarketing.   The bulk of the media work was done by American Rambler Productions, according to the public records, which includes some of Romney's most senior advisors, including Stuart Stevens, Russ Schriefer and Eric Ferhnstrom.

NOTED:  Romney has still not given any of his personal fortune - estimated to be anywhere between $190 million and $250 million - to his campaign, and the campaign has no debt.

OBAMA'S BIG NUMBER: $11.8 MILLION. Obama for America raised $11.8 million last month.  That includes $9.3 million in direct contributions from supporters and $2.5 million given via the Obama Victory Fund, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports. Combined with the Democratic National Committee, the campaign says it raised $29.1 million. However, the showing is the first time the president has fallen behind his fundraising pace from 2008, according to the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute. $11.8 million is roughly one third the amount Obama raised in the same month four years ago. The pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action raised a meager $59,000 in January according to their Federal Election Commission filing. The poor showing sheds light on one reason why Obama likely felt compelled to reverse himself and overtly endorse the group. Priorities has $1.3 million cash on hand and spent $258,000 last month.


2012 WILDCARD: PAIN AT THE PUMP. Gas Prices Rising: What Can White House Do? ABC's Jake Tapper discussed what rising oil prices mean for President Obama in an election year on "Good Morning America" today. WATCH:



FAITH LEADERS QUESTION OBAMA ON CONTRACEPTION. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit legal organization, will host a conference call at 11 a.m. ET today to discuss President Obama's "understanding of religious liberty." The call will focus on the Obama administration's contraception policy for religious organizations. On the call: Jim Towey, President of Ave Maria University and former director of President Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives; Kristina Arriaga, Executive Director of the Becket Fund; and Kyle Duncan, General Counsel of the Becket Fund.

ROMNEY TAKES ON SANTORUM OVER FISCAL DISCIPLINE. Mitt Romney arrived in Ohio yesterday for a speech with little fanfare, walking out without his customary campaign music and without an enthusiastic response from the crowd, ABC's Emily Friedman notes. Romney repeated his latest attacks on Santorum, accusing the former Pennsylvania senator of overspending during his years in Congress. "One of the people I'm running against, Senator Santorum, goes to Washington and calls himself a budget hawk," said Romney, who received only halfhearted applause during his speech, which clocked in at just under 15 minutes. "Then after he's been there a while he says he's no longer a budget hawk."  "Well, I am a budget hawk," Romney told the crowd of about 100. "I don't want to spend more money than we take in. I don't believe it's appropriate for us to keep raising the debt ceiling every year. He voted five times to raise the debt ceiling without getting compensating cuts in spending. During his time in the Senate, only two terms, the size of the federal government grew 80 percent."

DEMOCRATS AIM FIRE AT SANTORUM. After months of fixing its line of fire squarely on Mitt Romney, the Democratic Party has made a marked - if temporary - shift to Rick Santorum, ABC's Matt Negrin reports. On Sunday, the Democratic National Committee blasted out its first-ever email about Santorum, compiling some of the statements he made on CBS'  "Face the Nation"  about President Obama's faith, and more, calling Santorum the "latest GOP front-runner." And on Monday, the DNC put out a researched list of Santorum's proposals, some from as far back as June. What is the goal here? Obama would surely rather trade a general election against Romney for a matchup against Santorum, a social conservative who is viewed as far to the right of the mainstream. "He's leading in the polls," said a Democrat who insisted on anonymity when discussing party strategy. "It would be crazy to ignore him." It's not clear whether the Democrats' attacks against Santorum  will take him down a peg with Republican primary voters. But that's probably not the idea anyway. More likely, the idea is to take attention away from Romney and brighten the spotlight on Santorum. Even still, it could be risky. The Democratic campaign veteran Bill Galston told ABC News that even mentioning Santorum is a bad move because it takes some of the heat off Romney. "I'd preserve radio silence and let a party bent on committing suicide go about its business," Galston said.

GINGRICH: DEFEATING OBAMA IS A MATTER OF 'NATIONAL SECURITY' While discussing the threat of Iran yesterday to a crowd of about 4,000 people at Oral Roberts University, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said that defeating Barack Obama was "in fact, a duty of national security," ABC's Elicia Dover writes. "Because the fact is, he is incapable of defending the United States," Gingrich said. Gingrich told the crowd, many of them young students, there was a real threat of an American city being wiped out. Gingrich said the Obama administration refuses to acknowledge radical Islamists. "All of you should be very deeply concerned about national security. Barack Obama is the most dangerous president in modern American history," Gingrich said. Gingrich said the Obama administration was demonstrating "willful dishonesty" over describing what motivated the suspected terrorist from Morocco, who was arrested Friday by FBI agents for allegedly plotting to blow up the Capitol.

NEGATIVE ADS GET MORE NEGATIVE. "Four years ago, just 6 percent of campaign advertising in the GOP primary amounted to attacks on other Republicans; in this election, that figure has shot up to more than 50 percent, according to an analysis of advertising trends," the Washington Post's T.W. Farnam reports. "And the negative ads are not just more frequent - they also appear to be more vitriolic. … Romney's campaign began running an ad Friday in Michigan showing a limp body sinking in murky water, while a narrator intones: 'America is drowning in national debt, yet Rick Santorum supported billions in earmarks.' … Data show that super PACs, which have run more advertising than the campaigns themselves, have spent 72 percent of their money on negative ads. The figure for campaigns is 27 percent, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks television advertising across the country. (For this article, ads were considered negative if they mentioned another GOP candidate.) … 'Super PACs are left with no good choices,' said Brad Todd, a veteran GOP ad man who worked for Romney and the party in 2008 but is unaffiliated in this contest. 'If they didn't run comparison or contrast ads, they would have some very boring television.'"

LIKE FATHER, NOT LIKE SON. "Mitt Romney mentioned in an opinion piece for a Michigan newspaper last week that he learned to love 'chrome and fins and roaring motors' while growing up in Detroit. His father might have disagreed with such sentiment," Bloomberg's John McCormick notes. "Car detail tastes aside, there are numerous ways George Romney and Mitt Romney differed, both in their personalities and politics. … George, who died in 1995, was effervescent and volcanic. He pushed through the first state income tax in Michigan and supported the civil rights movement, actions that carried political risk. Mitt is more calculating and disciplined. 'George was a leader. Mitt is a manager,' said J. Bonner Ritchie, a retired business professor at Brigham Young University who was a friend of George's and has interviewed Mitt for an unpublished book about his father. 'George was willing to take risks. He was less concerned about what people would think about him. Nobody ever accused George of flip-flopping or playing to the audience.' … The two Romneys lived in different eras defined by their own political dynamics, so some comparisons aren't easy fits. Still, their governing styles and backgrounds could hardly be more distinct."

REPUBLICANS SHOP SOLYNDRA AS ELECTION YEAR ISSUE. "One year after it began, House Republicans are not letting up in their investigation of the $535 million loan guarantee to the failed solar firm Solyndra," reports The Hill's Andrew Restuccia. "Though the probe has not uncovered evidence of cronyism at the White House, the GOP sees an election-year advantage in pummeling President Obama on Solyndra, and hopes to turn it into a symbol of what they say is a failed administration. House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans marked the Solyndra investigation's one-year anniversary on Friday with a new catch-phrase they hope will follow the president on the campaign trail: 'the Solyndra economy.' They argue that the Solyndra loan guarantee is emblematic of the president's heavy-handed approach to job creation. Republicans say they are the champions of the 'Keystone economy,' named for the Alberta-to-Texas oil pipeline that the GOP strongly supports."

COMING SOON TO WASHINGTON, DC: A MILLION MUSTACHES? On a windswept Presidents Day afternoon, Aaron Perlut unveiled what could be considered his magnum opus: a Million Mustache March set for April Fool's Day, ABC's Chris Good reports. Standing before a small crowd of supporters and tourists  who, curious,  had ambled  toward the pro-mustache music blaring from his stage on the U.S. Capitol's West Lawn, the American Mustache Institute  chairman also rolled out the "Stache Act," a bill that would provide a $250 tax credit to mustached Americans. Perlut touted the support of tax giant H&R Block, which really did agree to support the endeavor. "According to AMI science, we've increased mustache growth and thus good looks by 38 percent in this country. But those good looks came at a cost in the form of American-made facial grooming products such as beard and mustache trimmers, facial hair dyes, karate training devices, mayonnaise and dynamite. Indeed, those accoutrements are not free," Perlut said. "It is clear that mustache maintenance costs qualify and should be considered a deductible expense related to the production of income underneath Internal Revenue Service Code Section 212, and, hence, the Million Mustache March." The April 1 Million Mustache March will be partly for mustaches, partly for fun and partly for charity. For each attendee, H&R Block has agreed to make a donation to Millions From One, a group that seeks to deliver safe drinking water around the world by purchasing equipment and developing infrastructure. Perlut's plan is to lead 1 million mustached brethren from the Capitol to the White House.



by ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield and Chris Good:

-Dirty-Tricks In Michigan? For the second time in the 2012 campaign, voters are hearing a robocall in which Rick Santorum endorses … Mitt Romney. The calls first surfaced in the South Carolina primary, and now they're going out in Michigan. The calls reportedly feature direct audio of Santorum endorsing Romney's bid for president in 2008, and some have complained the out-of-context use is dishonest.

-All Eyes On Arizona. Attention will turn to Mesa, Ariz. on Wednesday night, as the candidates meet there for a CNN-hosted debate. The GOP candidates haven't gathered on stage for a debate since Jan. 26 in Florida, and they won't again until March 19 in Portland. The Arizona Republic's Shaun McKinnon expects immigration and border security to come up early before the topic moves on to jobs and the economy.

- Santorum Alienating Moderates? With the culture war back on the burner, and with faith taking front and center in Rick Santorum's campaign of late, the Detroit Free Press wonders if the former Pennsylvania senator is alienating moderates in the state. After MSNBC's Chris Hayes dug up a Santorum quote about the decay of "mainline Protestant[ism] from 2008, the paper quotes a Presbyterian reverend in Detroit as saying, "He is not in touch with reality. Mainline protestants are doing a tremendous amount of good. .. It's about showing faith, not just talking about faith."

-Ohio Looms Large. The results of the Ohio primary, along with Michigan, could "decide Romney's White House dreams" argues Joe Frolik of The Plain Dealer. After all, Frolik argues, Ohio will be a hugely important state for the party in the fall. "No Republican's ever won the White House without Ohio."

But the landscape of Ohio has changed, and that could hurt Romney. In the past Ohio Republicans have tended to be more moderate, but that's not the case anymore. "For a generation or more, the Republicans who were most successful here - Jim Rhodes, George Voinovich, Bob Taft, Mike DeWine, Rob Portman and John Kasich - were much closer in tone to Romney than to Santorum" Frolik writes. "They were all, to varying degrees, conservatives, but they also conveyed a moderate temperament that Ohioans expect. But that was a different Republican Party."

- Tennessee Calling. Romney also got some support in another Super Tuesday state on Monday - Tennessee. Though Romney was not present, the East Tennessee for Romney campaign kicked off on Monday night.



@EdBrookover: The right way to look at the $$ chase. RT  @seanspicer: The RNC and the GOP field raised $31m…DNC and Obama raised $29m"

@dickstevenson: How presidential campaigns are using personal data to target you online.

@HotlineReid: Reuters: Obama camp expects GOP-backing super PACs to raise $700m, prompting rethink of super PAC opposition  #HotlineSort

@fivethirtyeight: Last few polls show a Romney trend and Michigan is now a true toss-up, says 538 forecast model.

@GOP12: Step too far? Ron Paul links Rick Santorum to Planned Parenthood funding.


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