President Obama speaks during a campaign event in Milwaukee. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- One of the big challenges Mitt Romney faced after effectively clinching the GOP presidential nomination in late April was ramping up his campaign to match the behemoth operation President Obama already had in place across the country.
The Republican challenger finally caught up last month – at least when measured by money.
The Romney campaign spent $4.04 million on payroll in August -- nearly twice as much as it spent in July -- while the Obama campaign spent $4.37 million, according to campaign finance disclosures filed last week with the Federal Election Commission.
But the president appears to be getting a much bigger bang for his buck.
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According to an analysis by the Times Data Desk, part of the Los Angeles Times, the Obama campaign had 901 people on its payroll last month, and paid them a median salary of $3,074 a month, or $36,886 a year.
The Romney campaign, in contrast, had 403 people on its payroll, and paid them a median salary of $6,437 in August, which would mean $77,250 a year.
A Romney campaign official said the median staff salary is actually $51,500 a year. The August payroll may have been inflated by back pay owed to new employees, the official said.
(Our calculations do not include the $207,500 in bonuses that the campaign paid Aug. 31 to nine top Romney officials. Recipients included campaign manager Matt Rhoades, field director Rich Beeson, policy director Lanhee Chen, and communications director Gail Gitcho. A campaign spokeswoman said the bonuses were tied to Romney’s primary wins, and were paid after the GOP national convention, pursuant to their employment agreements.)
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The disparity in the two campaigns’ compensation packages underscores a key difference in their strategic approach.
Much of Obama’s campaign staff consists of on-the-ground organizers deployed around the country early this year as part of a field program designed to identify and register Obama voters, and ultimately get them to cast ballots.
The Romney campaign has taken a different tack. It is relying on the Republican National Committee for the bulk of its voter registration and mobilization program this fall.
The RNC appears to have a smaller staff than the Democratic National Committee. Last month, it employed 208 people, paying them a median annual salary of $40,814. The DNC had 291 staffers who were on track to make a median annual salary of $35,394.
But RNC officials said the staff at the party’s headquarters does not count organizers out in the field, who are paid directly by the state parties.
“Our more than 600 staff in over 250 battleground Victory offices are working around the clock to make sure we get voters to the polls and that every Republican, independent, and disaffected Democrat hears our message,” RNC political director Rick Wiley wrote in a memo last month.
[For the Record, 3:12 p.m. PST Sept. 24: This post has been updated to include additional details from the RNC.]
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Sandra Poindexter in Los Angeles contributed to this report.