A pro-Mitt Romney ad, which was placed on the Florida television airwaves by a group called Restore Our Future, fiercely attacks former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich is assailed in the ad for having “a ton of baggage” in the form of ethics violations and for having received consulting payments from Freddie Mac. Another ad from the same group rebukes him for supposedly making mention of Ronald Reagan’s name too frequently and without merit.
A stream of negative attack ads costing tens of millions of dollars have flooded Florida’s airwaves, and the vast majority of the commercials are being financed by a Super PAC that is seeking to lower the poll numbers of the former House Speaker.
The use of Super PACs in political campaigns resulted from a Supreme Court decision two years ago, which ruled that the First Amendment to the Constitution bars government restrictions on corporate and labor union campaign expenditures.
Supporters of both Gingrich and Romney have formed Super PACs, which are now permitted to spend without restriction. However, the current law unrealistically requires that groups refrain from coordinating their activities with campaign organizations of the specific candidate to whom they are lending their support.
As many will recall, Gingrich’s first surge occurred in December of 2011. Restore Our Future, a Super PAC set up by Romney supporters, responded to Gingrich’s increased support by pouring millions of dollars into negative TV advertisements in an effort to bring down his numbers. The ads were pivotal in the former House Speaker’s fourth place showing in the Iowa caucuses.
The Gingrich campaign, however, was given some much needed financing with which to counter, and it came in the form of Winning Our Future, a Super PAC formed by supporters and primarily funded by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
In the week preceding the Florida primary, spending on advertising spiked. According to the Associated Press, the Romney campaign shelled out $2.8 million for TV spots, while the Super PAC supporting him, Restore Our Future, wrote checks for another $4 million in ads, for a grand total of almost $7 million in one week.
Meanwhile the Gingrich campaign only came up with $700,000 for its advertisements, as the Super PAC assisting him, Winning Our Future, spent $1.5 million, for a grand total of $2.2 million. This reflects a three-to-one spending advantage for Romney during the final week leading up to the primary.
The total spending in the Florida campaign indicates Romney’s Super PACs laid out five times as much money than did Gingrich’s Super PAC. The Romney-supporting Super PAC, Restore Our Future, spent in excess of $16.6 million in TV attack ads, while the pro-Gingrich group used up about $3.5 million, according to the OpenSecrets website.
Negative campaigning is part and parcel of the American political scene. While people and pundits alike decry negative ads, election results show that they work.
Still, the effect of the current onslaught of brutal attack ads remains to be seen.
Republicans should perhaps be concerned that the Super PAC-fueled destruction may result in enlarged negative ratings for the frontrunners, particularly with the much sought after voters who are not aligned with either major political party.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A. in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court and has made several appearances there on landmark decisions. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood.
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