The battle between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney will be the most expensive presidential contest ever — by a long shot.
There are two main reasons. It's the first time both major-party candidates are declining post-Watergate federal campaign financing — and the spending limits attached. And the proliferation of super PACS is pumping untold millions into the fray on both sides, mostly for advertising.
So fasten your seat belts and prepare for a howling tempest of broadcast ads, especially if you live in a battleground state.
Obama and Romney were both coming off a week of intensive national fundraising.
Without Democratic primary opposition, Obama had a huge early advantage.
But Romney, likely to surpass the 1,144 delegates needed for the GOP nomination next Tuesday with a primary win in Texas, is starting to catch up as major conservative donors begin opening their wallets.
Through April, Obama and Democratic groups supporting him have raised nearly $450 million and have more than $150 million in the bank. Romney and Republicans backing him have collected more than $400 million during the same stretch and have about $80 million at their disposal.
Both candidates are shooting for raising around $800 million, which would put their combined campaign spending at roughly $1.6 billion. Add another few hundred million from super PACs and convention spending.
Obama opted out of public financing in 2008 and raised $750 million. His spending swamped GOP rival Sen. John McCain, limited to spend the $84 million he received from taxpayers. Super PACs didn't exist then.
We know what happened in that race. Romney didn't want to see it happen to him.