Romney, Obama focus one-quarter of spending in one state

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney attends a campaign event in Boston, Mass., March 6, 2012. Romney and President Obama have spent nearly one quarter of their campaign money in Massachusetts.

Kai Ryssdal: There are still five months left yet before Election Day, but presidential campaign 2012 is already getting expensive. The most recent reports from the Obama and Romney camps show the two sides have spent, combined, nearly $200 million so far. Almost a quarter of it in a single state. Florida? No. Ohio? No.

Shannon Mullen has the answer.


Shannon Mullen: Would you believe, Massachusetts? Mitt Romney and President Obama spent $45 million in the Bay State last year through the first quarter of this year -- on everything from pizza and postage to voter research and ad buys. That's the most the pair has shelled out in any state so far, according to expense reports the campaigns filed with the Federal Election Commission. Massachusetts is a long-time Democratic bastion. But the Romney campaign spent nearly 95 percent of the combined total.

What gives? Romney's a former governor of Massachusetts and decided to locate his campaign headquarters in Boston. Much of his spending has been payroll for campaign staff. But President Obama has dropped more than $2.5 million in Massachusetts, spending more in only four other states -- including Illinois, the home of his campaign.

Harvard professor Steve Ansolabehere teaches government and studies elections.

Steve Ansolabehere: Part of the reason is that the academic community in Boston generates lot of students who have training, have skills in managing databases, but are also political junkies. So this is a natural place to set up shop.

He says Massachusetts has lots of political consultants and data analysis companies that crunch numbers for national campaigns and find new ways to work the web for donations. Obama's paid hundreds of thousands to two telemarketing firms in the Boston area. But traditional media has also gotten a nod in the spending spree.

The production company that makes Romney's TV ads is based in Massachusetts.

Mitt Romney ad: Mitt Romney's strong leadership will make all the difference on jobs.

Mitt Romney: I'm Mitt Romney and I approve this message.

Romney has paid that same company more than $18 million to place his ads in markets around the country, so those dollars end up out of state. But Steve Ansolabahere says plenty of money stays in the local economy through payments to restaurants, caterers, hotels, office suppliers...

Ansolabahere: All these are medium size and small businesses. There are very few really big businesses in the political campaign world, so it's all kind of helping small businesses in the United States.

Including Winston Flowers, an upscale Boston florist that counts Chanel and the Red Sox among its clients. Company President Ted Winston shows off a two-acre garden center filled with exotic plants and deluxe floral bouquets.

Ted Winston: This is really our flagship location, where we do everything from cut flowers to orchid plants to container gardening. We have greenhouses in back.

Winston worked with Mitt Romney when he was governor and now sends floral arrangements as thank-you gifts to donors. But Winston is equal opportunity. He's done flowers for an Obama White House state dinner and later worked a Boston campaign event for the president.

Winston: Both campaigns have the confidence in what we do. It's an honor and it kind of validates us.

Some of the biggest spending is still to come as November approaches. With all those swing states in play, it's hard to say whether Massachusetts will keep its edge. Both campaigns are expected to unleash millions more in spending across the country in the coming months. And that's economic stimulus both candidates can take credit for.

In Boston, I'm Shannon Mullen for Marketplace.

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