* Romney, Republican fundraisers have more to spend
* Obama replenishes funds in record-breaking September
By Alina Selyukh and Patrick Temple-West and Alexander Cohen
WASHINGTON, Oct 21 Mitt Romney held a financial
advantage over President Barack Obama heading into October
thanks to strong fundraising by the Republican Party that will
allow its candidate to spend more on the last stretch toward the
Nov. 6 election.
Campaign finance disclosures show the Romney campaign, the
Republican National Committee and the fund they use jointly had
$183.1 million in cash on hand at the end of September, more
than Obama and the Democratic Party, who had $149.1 million.
Obama's campaign on its own has dwarfed Romney's in the
money stakes in recent months, raising $136.2 million in
September, according to a Reuters tally of latest reports. The
Romney campaign alone raised much less: $76.1 million, according
to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
But when taken together with the RNC, Romney had more to
spend on advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts as the
campaign entered its last lap with the two men running neck and
neck in polls.
September was one of the toughest months for Romney as he
lagged in the polls and suffered from the release of a secretly
taped video showing him make remarks that 47 percent of the
population who receive government benefits are "victims."
Nonetheless, he continued to grow his small-donor base in
September and raised nearly a third of his money from checks of
less than $200, Saturday's filings showed.
The FEC filings do not account for what the campaign said
was a big uptick in online donations after Romney's strong
performance in the first presidential debate on Oct. 3.
Romney also has an advantage in support from "Super PACs"
and other outside groups such as Republican strategist Karl
Rove's nonprofit Crossroads GPS, which funds anti-Obama
Republican-aligned groups spent $84.1 million on ads from
Sept. 10 through Oct. 18, while pro-Democratic groups laid out
less, $23.1 million, despite a strong fundraising month by
pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action, according to Reuters
analysis of spending disclosures to the FEC.
The lynchpin of Obama's fundraising effort has been the
campaign's ability to collect donations on its own as opposed to
the Democratic National Committee or outside-spending groups.
Campaign finance experts say Obama's more direct control of
money offers greater flexibility in how to use it. Parties have
limits on how much they can coordinate with a candidate's
campaign on spending and TV stations promise campaigns - not
outside groups or parties - the lowest prices on ads.
However, the ad barrage of the 2012 campaign has boosted
prices on precious advertising time in crucial swing states and
local TV station managers say campaigns are paying little
attention to how much an ad costs as long as it airs in the
little time left before Election Day.
Obama's campaign spent a whopping $111.4 million in
September, the vast majority of that on the production and
airing of ads, according to Reuters analysis of FEC filings.
Romney's campaign, by comparison, spent $54.7 million, also
mostly on advertising.
SMALL DONOR CHASE
Obama this week released a list of "bundlers" - people
raising $50,000 or more for his re-election effort - indicating
that so far in this campaign, they helped him with at least
$180.1 million. Romney has not disclosed his bundlers.
Romney held his last fundraiser in Florida on Saturday and
the Obama campaign had its last one earlier this month.
Obama's prowess with small donors remained on a level with
his record-setting 2008 White House bid as he relied on people
giving $200 or less for more than a third of his cash this year.
Dollar-to-dollar, Romney's small-donor haul was at least
$12.4 million versus $49.5 million for the president, according
to a Reuters analysis of data provided to the FEC.
Small donor enthusiasm for Romney lagged through the summer
months as he struggled to coalesce the party after the
Republican primaries, said Bill Allison, editorial director at
the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for
campaign finance transparency.
"Republicans are much more excited about him now," Allison
said. Republican small donors include many evangelical
conservatives and "they have become the forgotten group in the
2012 campaign," he said.
The RNC had $82.6 million in September, trouncing its
Democratic counterpart, which had $4.6 million after taking out
a $10.5 million loan.