Independent Republican groups are heavily outspending their cross-party counterparts on television advertising in the campaigns for the White House and control of the Senate, eating into President Barack Obama's financial advantage over Mitt Romney and prompting expressions of alarm from top congressional Democrats.
The disparity is most evident in the race for the White House, where Crossroads GPS, Restore Our Future and other organizations aligned with the Republicans spent nearly $37 million on TV ads through the first few days of June, most of it attacking Obama. That compares with about $11 million by groups supporting the president, with much of it from Priorities USA Action.
Senate campaigns also have been affected, notably in Ohio, where Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown's commanding lead in the polls began to erode this spring after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others started a televised attack. Overall, Republican-aligned organizations have spent roughly $30 million on ads in key races, compared with about $11 million for groups supporting Democrats.
(...) Outside groups have allowed Romney to remain competitive in the television ads wars while restocking a treasury that was depleted during the battle for the Republican nomination. It also raises the possibility that Obama, the Democratic Party and allied groups will be outspent by a combination of Romney, the GOP and allied organizations, erasing an advantage the president had in 2008.
Earlier this year, Obama's campaign decided to dip into its own treasury to respond to commercials from the American Energy Alliance, which had spent more than $3 million attacking the president.
Privately, the president's top campaign aides frequently express concern about the disparity, according to several Democratic officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. There is irony in that, because Obama previously had shunned support from groups that may rely on unlimited or undisclosed donations. It wasn't until February that he permitted top aides to publicly bless the work of Priorities Action USA.
By contrast, Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads, groups formed by prominent Republican strategist Karl Rove and others, were active in the 2010 election campaign.
(...) In the general election race for the White House, television ads designed to aid Obama totaled about $55 million through the early days of June. Of that, the president's own campaign spent $44.7 million, more than 80 percent of the total, with $9.3 million from Priorities USA Action.
The situation was reversed among Republicans, where outside groups put up about $37 of $44 million spent so far on television ads, or more than 80 percent of the GOP total. Romney's campaign has spent about $7.8 million.