The $26 million Republican air war

How the GOP campaigns and Super PACs have spent their media dollars.

Presidential advertisers have spent a combined total of $26 million on advertising in the Republican primary to date, according to a tally by Smart Media Group Delta.

The money, spread across Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, has gone toward some memorable spots – Ron Paul’s dog, Rick Perry’s prayer jacket, voters wondering who Jon Huntsman is -- as the candidates have fought an increasingly fierce air war for their party’s nomination. But you don’t have to be living in West Des Moines or Manchester to understand just how crowded TV ad time has become in the leadoff states. We’ve compiled a grid mapping the campaign spots, positive and negative, in the order they were released.

The red circles represent positive spots, the grey circles represent spots that are somewhere in the middle and the black circles represent negative spots. Breaking down the total spent on both negative and positive ads is problematic because it’s difficult to chart how long a spot has run on a station. Still, a few patterns stand out:

-Super PACs are the new conduits for contrast ads, which spares the candidates from having to be linked directly to those attacks. Take the Restore Our Future PAC, one of the Super PACs supporting Mitt Romney. Five out of the six spots it produced were negative. It started off with a mainly positive spot called “Now You See the Problem” that focused mainly on how Romney can create jobs. After that was out of the way, the group created five other ads that focused on attacking Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.

-Make Us Great Again PAC, which supports Perry, ran three positive spots from Oct. 25 until they finally released the negative “Newsreel” ad on Dec. 21, attacking both Gingrich and Romney. Perry’s campaign, meanwhile, also released negative spots. It produced “Problem/Solution” and “Three Streets,” which targeted Romney and Gingrich. On the other hand, Winning Our Future, the former speaker’s Super PAC, has produced two positive ads on behalf of Gingrich.

-Our Destiny PAC, which backs Jon Huntsman, has run two positive spots so far. Their most recent spot, “Two,” released in mid-December, is not an all-out attack ad, but does criticize Romney before touting Huntsman’s credentials. Meanwhile, the pro-Rick Santorum group, Red White and Blue Fund, has produced two positive ads on behalf of the former Pennsylvania senator.  

We've also compiled a full spending breakdown for the candidates and PACs. And to get the full picture of the presidential TV ad landscape, the candidates’ full ad library can be viewed here.

Sarah Stone is a research analyst with Smart Media Group. She specializes in tracking campaign spending for SMG’s clients. When she’s not analyzing the competition’s political spending, she assists with building media plans and functions as the firm’s resident cartographer. 

A version of this post was also published on Smart Media Group’s blog, Smart Blog.


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