Since the beginning of last year, Mr. Obama and the Democrats have burned through millions of dollars to find and register voters. They have spent almost $50 million subsidizing Democratic state parties to hire workers, pay for cellphones and update voter lists. They have spent tens of millions of dollars on polling, online advertising and software development to turn Mr. Obama’s fallow volunteers corps into a grass-roots army.
The price tag: about $400 million from the beginning of last year to June 30 this year, according to a New York Times analysis of Federal Election Commission records, including $86 million on advertising.
“There is a lot of worry that Romney’s folks are raising so much more,” said one of Mr. Obama’s top fund-raisers, who did not want to be identified as discussing internal campaign business. “I just don’t think there’s a lot of high-dollar money left on the table.”
But in interviews, party and campaign officials defended the approach of spending money to build out the campaign, saying they believed that the wisdom of Mr. Obama’s strategy would be demonstrated at the voting booth in November.
“The earlier the better,” said Adam Fetcher, an Obama campaign spokesman. “Starting a conversation with a persuadable voter months before Election Day allows us to be more effective in responding to that voter’s priorities than if they first hear from us a few weeks out. Building and maintaining our grass-roots foundation takes time and resources, but we believe those early investments will make a difference.”