Money can’t buy love, but it does buy a primary win

After a completely unpredictable turn of events at Tuesday’s Florida GOP primary, it appears that Mitt Romney will likely take the Republican nomination. It seems like a good idea to point out that it’s not Mitt’s charming and humble nature that is winning him votes — it’s cold hard cash.

His campaign is the most well funded, so far having outspent Newt Gingrich’s campaign 5 to 1, in Florida alone. Talking Points Memo reported that Romney along with his super political action committee (PAC), Restore Our Future, spent $15,340,000 on ads just in Florida (John McCain spent $11.3 million on ads for his whole 2008 primary campaign). Gingrich and his super PAC, Winning our Future, spent a mere fraction of that at just over $3 million.

In comparison with the 2008 primary, spending by outside groups is also up by 1,600 percent, according to a new study done by the Wesleyan Media Project. Yes, you read that right. Thanks to the Citizens United ruling, super PACS are fueling campaign spending in a big way. The study also shows that 97 percent of the advertisements in 2008 were candidate-sponsored. That number has declined to only 56 percent of the total this year. Moreover, the study notes that interest-group backed advertisements have gone from 3 to 44 percent of the total.

The disparity in the amount of money spent on these campaigns is reflected in Romney’s sizable victories in all but one primary: South Carolina. South Carolina was the only state where Romney and Gingrich spent close to the same amount of money, which undoubtedly helped cushion Gingrich’s victory.

Romney hasn’t been shy about spending his money on nasty advertisements either. (He bought 60 times as many ads as Gingrich in Florida.) In fact, 92 percent of the ads that were run in Florida were negative, most of which have been paid for by Romney and his super PAC. The ads are not pretty. One Spanish language radio ad alleges that Gingrich called Spanish “the language of the ghetto.”

The reality of the situation is that no one really likes Mitt that much. Of the people who voted for Gingrich in Florida, 53 percent said they would not be satisfied with a Romney nomination. What’s worse? An exit poll in Florida suggests that 4 in 10 voters are not pleased with the selection of Republican candidates. Voter turnout has been lower than expected as well: Tuesday’s primary in Florida had roughly 1.66 million voters compared with 2008’s close to 1.95 million voters. With voting down by 15 percent, Republicans may have to worry that a lack of enthusiasm for Romney may discourage people from going to the polls altogether come November.

Despite this lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy, Mitt’s been strolling through the primaries with a knowing smirk on his face. His occasional frustration seems to be rooted in annoyance, as if he were wondering why he wasn’t the candidate already.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been supportive of a “Brave Newt World.” Aside from his uncanny likeness to Dwight Schrute, I haven’t been particularly fond of our favorite “open marriage” spokesperson. Having said that, it is unfair to think that his campaign was, as I like to think, single-handedly destroyed by an enormous amount of negative campaigning.

If this primary has taught us anything, it’s that money can buy you a candidacy. “Fighting for America” by any other name apparently means spending millions of dollars taking out your opponents in multiple TV spots.

Can it really feel good to know that your votes don’t mean much more than an apathy toward the other candidates? Because that’s the thing. Getting people to hate your opponents is not the same as getting them to love you. People aren’t voting for Romney — they’re voting against everyone else.

At the end of the day, we all expect our candidates to fight for our vote, but spending millions of dollars on negative campaigning seems like a lazy way to do it.

_Nishat is a senior in LAS._