In the 2008 Election over $1 billion was spent. Obama spent 730 M and McCain spent 333 M.
2012 looks like it will be even more. With the Citizens United Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling, the numbers are expected to go up. Recent reports support this. Obama raised $86 M in the last 3 months, breaking previous records, as well as their goal of $60 M. The Republican candidtes raised less than $5 M during the same period. The GOP is trying to save face by claiming that the incumbent has an advantage in fund raising. That is true - just as he has an advantage in the actual election. If you can't beat him now at spending now, you won't beat him in the polls.
The traditional view is that all this money is a bad thing. We don't want anyone to 'buy' office. But the Supreme Court says (and I agree) that money is a kind of speech. Money flows from strongly held opinions, but is a rather poor at changing people's opinions (estimates are that doubling your spending increases your votes by 1% of total votes).
Note I do disagree with the SCOTUS when they claimed that corporations are entitled to Free Speech and that allowing anonymous spending ( without proof of citizenship) on a presidential election. We need laws to prevent non-citizens - whether they be corporations or foreigners - from interfering in an election that is NONE of their business.
But there is no problem with the amount of money being spent per se. That is an illusion caused by looking at those numbers in a vacuum. One BILLLLLLION dollars (hold my pinky up to my face) sounds like a lot. Until you realize that more money will be spent advertising chewing gum during that year. Which do you think is more important? Choosing who will be president or which brand of gum you will buy? (Note, the candy industry loves advertising - they spend about 20% of their budget as advertising.)
$1 Billion is not enough to buy the US presidency. Neither would $2 Billion, or even $4 Billion. People (and now corporations and foreigners - due to the bad SCOTUS ruling ) are voting with their checkbooks before the 2012 election. It is the the best indication of how the 2012 election will go. The GOP is in for another sad shock, just like in 2008, when Obama led the Democrats to crush the GOP.
McConell is only partly correct when he said that no deal is possible (on the budget) while Obama is president. He forgot that a deal would be possible if Obama is President and McConnel led only 32 Senators and the House was held by the Democrats. If the GOP continues with their foolhardy plan to shut down the government, the country will just realize how much they LIKE the services the Democrats are protecting, and how much they don't care if the top 1% has to take a tax hike.