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Pro-Romney SuperPAC Spent Big On Super Tuesday

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's six primary wins on Super Tuesday didn't come cheap. An NPR analysis shows that last week alone, the Romney campaign and the pro-Romney superPAC combined spent nearly $7 million on TV ads.

Less than $1 million of that was spent by Romney's official campaign, while the pro-Romney superPAC Restore Our Future — which has almost exclusively engaged in negative advertising this year — spent $5.7 million.

That's compared to $220,000 spent on ads last week by the superPAC supporting former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

In anticipation of Tuesday's big showdown in Ohio, Romney and his supporters were spending to erase Santorum's lead in the state.

"Given what Romney spent in Ohio in the last week, at least we have one hypothesis about why he closed the gap," says John Geer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University who specializes in political advertising. "He simply outspent Santorum by, you know, a dramatic amount."

Still, Romney only won Ohio by less than 1 percent.

SuperPACS Doing The Dirty Work

NPR's analysis uses superPAC spending reports from the Federal Election Commission as well as data from the media tracking firm Kantar Media, as reported by The Washington Post. But what the analysis can't measure is the effectiveness of superPAC advertising.

Political scientist John Geer says the Romney superPAC may be strategically boxed in. He says the logical attack against Santorum would be that he's extremely conservative, but in this year's Republican contests extremely conservative is what a lot of voters want.

"So instead they have to talk about earmarks and some other things that just don't really jibe," Geer says. "I think the spending that's going on, especially the negative ads, probably aren't having very much effect because they're picking at small things."

Then there's the argument that superPAC attack ads are having an impact on the contest — just not a very good one.

Benjamin Bates, a professor of communications at Ohio University, says candidates always want a surrogate speaker to make attacks on their behalf. This year, the newly created presidential superPACs have embraced that mission.

"By letting the superPAC take on that role, the surrogate is able to do all the dirty work on behalf of the candidate, which helps protect the attacker's image," Bates says.

Advertising by all of the superPACs has been overwhelmingly negative. But there's a problem there: The relentless negativity seems to discourage some people from voting.

According to Bates, turnout in Ohio was expected to go up this year compared to 2008 because of the competitive nature of the GOP race. Instead, turnout dropped about 5 percent. Bates thinks he knows why.

"The superPACs are definitely doing their job," he says. "Their job is to introduce negativity and to get people to stay home, and they seem to have done that very, very well."

As the primary battles rage on, that job continues. The pro-Romney superPAC has told the FEC that so far it has spent $1.3 million in Alabama and Mississippi — which hold their primaries next Tuesday — and the superPAC that backs former House Speaker Newt Gingrich reported spending $1.4 million in those states and Kansas, which votes on Saturday.

Comments

Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | March 8, 2012 at 4:41 p.m. ― 2 years, 5 months ago

Keep up the debates! You all are making President Obama look great! Not that he needs the help, but this is politics after all.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 8, 2012 at 7:35 p.m. ― 2 years, 5 months ago

He's spending that much and still barely winning.

This guy should actually try being himself for once.

You know, Willard, a moderate is not a bad thing despite what the Tea Party Radicals are telling you.

Many in this country prefer to have moderate voices, and it's the extremists that are stalling Congress.

I think Willard would be doing a lot better if he actually was honest about who he is and ran as a moderate instead of pretending to be some fanatical right wing loonie like MoonMan Gingrich and Rick Unsanitaryum.

Of course it's really to late for Willard now.

He already has a long line of flip-flops trying to pander to the far right ghouls, and if he decides to try and flip flop around again it will really backfire.

The damage is done, and short of some major, gigantic gaff by Obama between now and the election, Obama will be re-elected.

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