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Romney outspends Santorum 4 to 1 in WI on ads, voter outreach

By   /   April 3, 2012  /   No Comments

By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney ran like a front-runner in Wisconsin, and he spent accordingly leading up to Tuesday’s Badger State primary.

Romney and his supporters outspent fellow candidate Rick Santorum nearly 4 to 1 on TV ads in Wisconsin, said Marquette University political scientist Amber Wichowsky, who specializes in campaign finance issues.

Election results, and exit polls, soon will show if that was money well spent.

“As we gear up toward the election and as there’s lots of ads being aired, people have pretty firm opinions of the candidates and don’t appear to be moved much,” Wichowsky said.

Wichowsky said Romney and interest groups that support him have spent $3 million on TV ads in the state, compared with about $700,000 spent from Santorum and his supporters.

The Washington Post’s “Mad Money: Campaign Ads” tracker indicates $100.1 million thus far has been spent on the presidential race nationwide, with most of it — nearly $59.9 million — on issue ads focusing on budgets and government spending.

John McAdams, political scientist at Marquette University in Milwaukee, said he doesn’t believe ads run in Wisconsin have varied much from the national message.

Santorum is being painted as too liberal on economic issues, McAdams said, and Romney is too liberal all around.

“The Santorum themes that I’ve seen are really pretty much the classic Santorum themes, which say that Romney isn’t much different than (President Barack) Obama,” he said.

Seventy-two percent of presidential campaign ads this election cycle have been negative, according to the Washington Post.

The media outlet tracks the cost of ads that have hit the airwaves, not the total “ad buys” campaigns announce.

According to the Washington Post, candidates, political action committees and interest groups have spent $2.26 million on TV ads in Wisconsin, including $570,450 from March 19 through 25, the latest period for which weekly data is available.

Not all money goes to TV ads.

Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney SuperPac, spent nearly $10,500 on April 1 in Wisconsin to reach voters by phone in opposition to Santorum, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending.

Restore Our Future rolled out a campaign ad that Santorum voted to raise the debt ceiling five times, and supported spending billions on wasteful projects when he was a U.S. senator for Pennsylvania.

A day earlier, the pro-Santorum SuperPac, the Red, White and Blue Fund, paid about the same amount calling voters to drum up support.

The fund ran an ad that said in part that “Romney’s massive state health care takeover served as the blueprint for ‘Obamacare’ and its $1.7 trillion price tag.”

Does it matter who spends however much pushing whatever message?

RealClearPolitics.com, which compiles political polling data from various sources, indicated that Romney was beating Santorum by an average of 7.5 percent in Wisconsin in polls just before Tuesday’s vote.

Romney is favored to win in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, which also voted Tuesday.

McAdams said campaign ads matter more, now, during the primary season, when partisan voters are choosing who should represent the party.

As the general election nears, he said, people’s party alignment matters more, and they’ve had more time to form an opinion on the candidates.

Wichowsky isn’t convinced that campaign ads do much to affect public opinion.

She likens the competing ad campaigns to the arms race.

“I think from a campaign strategy perspective, you’re worried that your opponent is going to be out there louder and more active getting his or her message out,” she said. “And you want to make sure that, on balance, your campaign is not going to be at a disadvantage.”

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