Mitt Romney won Florida decisively last night with help from a huge number of negative ads by the campaign and his super PAC. Romney was soundly beaten in South Carolina as Newt Gingrich outdebated him time and time again. A number of ads in South Carolina focused on the former governor's conservative credentials. Coming into Florida, Romney made the decision to not allow a repeat of South Carolina.
The Florida primary was also called the most negative campaign ever. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), 92 percent of all political ads in Florida were negative. A total of 11,586 ads aired in the sunshine state between January 23 and January 29; 10,633 of those ads were negative. Newt Gingrich ran 1,012 ads with 95 percent being negative while Romney ran 3,276 ads of which 99 percent were negative.
In addition to the campaign ads, Romney's super PAC, Restoring Our Future, ran an additional 4,969 ads and all of them were negative. By contrast, Newt Gingrich's super PAC, Winning Our Future, ran 1,893 ads with 53 percent being negative. Of all the political ads aired in Florida, 68 percent were anti-Gingrich while 23 percent were anti-Romney. Pro-Gingrich ads accounted for nine percent of the ads while pro-Romney ads only accounted for less than 0.1 percent.
It is interesting and telling that almost all of Mitt Romney's ads, from his campaign and his super PAC, focused on negativity and barely touched on why voters should choose Romney. Highlighting your opponent's shortcomings is easy but voters want to know why they should vote for a particular candidate. Does this mean Romney's message that he's a true conservative is not resonating? Or does he think making Gingrich looks worse is his path to victory?
Not only did Romney air a huge number of negative ads, he also spent a lot of money to do so. According to CNN, Romney's campaign spent $5,725,550 on ads in Florida while the Gingrich campaign spent $716,090. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul didn't spend any money on ads. Romney's super PAC spent an additional $7,602,810 for a total of $13,328,360 spent on negative ads. Gingrich's super PAC spent $1,756,290 for a grand total of $2,742,380 on ads.
Romney's Florida numbers on negative ads are a strong contrast to the 2008 Republican primary season. Romney spent more on negative ads in Florida than John McCain spent ($11,000,000) on his entire 2008 primary.
Last election cycle, Romney spent $32,000,000 on his failed bid for the presidency. He's almost spent half that in Florida alone. Is his goal to spend Gingrich out of the election? He spent a lot of money last time and still didn't win the nomination. Another question to ponder: How do members of a political group who claim to be fiscal conservatives justify spending so much money to win a job that pays around three percent of what Romney spent in Florida?
(Photo Source: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)