With Republican Mitt Romney’s landslide win in the Florida presidential primary powered by a massive number of negative ads, President Obama’s 2012 campaign staff have begun worrying about the eventual influence of so-called Super PACs in the November election.
And the folks back in Obama’s Chicago campaign headquarters have reason for concern, according to a new report.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina fired off a fundraising appeal to supporters Wednesday specifically citing the influence of these largely unregulated organizations in Romney’s victory over GOP rival Newt Gingrich.
Messina notes that Romney and the groups supporting him outspent Gingrich and organizations on his side in the Sunshine State by $15.3 million to $3.4 million. Romney and influence groups loyal to him put 13,000 advertisements on the air on Romney’s behalf as of mid-week last week. Gingrich had only about 200, Messina says. Some 92 percent of these ads that were negative, he says.
“That’s ugly, and it tells us a lot about what to expect from Romney if he wins the Republican nomination. They’re going to try to spend and smear their way to the White House,” Messina says.
These Super PACs, which proliferated in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling which struck down most campaign finance regulation, have narrowed the gap between what the president and his supporters can spend and what Republicans their backers can., according to a report published Wednesday by The Washington Post.
“The emerging pattern suggests that Obama may have an increasingly difficult time staying ahead of his competitors in the money race this year, particularly after Republicans coalesce around one candidate focused on winning the White House. That contender will almost certainly receive a surge of contributions from Republicans who want to beat Obama,” the Post says.
The Obama re-election campaign is ready to fight back, however, Messina says.
“These super PACs can dominate the airwaves, but what they can’t do is mobilize volunteers on the ground,” he says. “And that’s how we’re going to win.”
The Obama camp’s focus on the ground game could mean hiring a new field organizer, paying the rent for a field office, or putting together an online training for new volunteers, Messina’s email says.
“The Florida primary will be a turning point in this race — the other side is looking at what could be months of brutal, negative tactics that turn people off to politics altogether,” Messina says. “We’re spending that time building a campaign to win in November.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.