In politics, you pay to play. In the case of Mitt Romney and his supporters, you pay handsomely.
Several outlets have reported that the Romney campaign and its affiliated super PAC, Restore Our Future, have sunk more than $15 million in Florida ad spending alone, compared to Newt Gingrich’s $3.4 million. That’s a combined excess of $18 million — which to put it in perspective, is the same amount as the shortfall Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn had to fill in his 2012 budget.
Romney might have us believe that it’s his ideas (combined with his new debate coach) that are helping him build what is now a healthy double-digit lead in the Florida, where citizens will have their last chance to vote in the Republican primary today. But compared to South Carolina where Team Romney only outspent Team Gingrich 2-to-1, there is no question that cash influences star billing in the political theater.
And what a theater it is. On the television stage, two advertisements in particular have captured attention. The first comes from the Romney camp, and has surfaced discussion around fair use, because the ad is comprised almost entirely of a news broadcast from 1997, featuring NBC anchor Tom Brokaw:
Mitt Romney attack ad on Newt Gingrich, from a 1997 NBC Nightly News segment.
Not to be left out, the Gingrich campaign has launched television ads of their own, calling into question Romney’s conservative credentials:
Newt Gingrich attack ad takes aim at Mitt Romney.
According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, 92% of the advertisements run in the past week have been negative. Such verbal assaults tend to cancel each other if the financial field is level. But when one side has the capacity to flood the zone with a five-fold advantage in advertising, much of it critical of their opponent, that side is almost always going to win. Consider this nugget from the Los Angeles Times:
In Florida, interest groups supporting Romney bought 6,942 ad spots between the beginning of the year and January 25 — four days after South Carolina — in addition to the 5,826 paid for by Romney’s campaign, according to data from Kantar Media/CMAG and analyzed by the Wesleyan Media Project. By contrast, Gingrich had 14 spots over the same time period, with an additional 196 paid for by his super PAC.
Gingrich has loudly declared in recent days that he is going to take his candidacy all the way to the Republican Party convention. It will be a Sysiphian enterprise if Team Romney continues to outspend Team Gingrich by such large margins.