SuperPAC Ads Fill Airwaves On Eve Of Super Tuesday

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With 10 states holding Republican primaries or caucuses on March 6 — Super Tuesday — a lot of money is being spent on TV ads. The superPACs supporting the remaining GOP candidates have doled out some $12 million for ads in those states.

Leading the way is Restore Our Future, the superPAC that backs former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. According to Federal Election Commission numbers, Restore Our Future has spent $6.9 million on the Super Tuesday states.

"The groups have clearly taken the lead in advertising for the whole Republican primary. They're very much taking the lead in advertising for Super Tuesday. It's mostly the 'Restore Our Future show,' followed by Winning Our Future, which is the Gingrich group, and Red, White and Blue, which is the Santorum group," says Ken Goldstein, who tracks political ad spending for Kantar Media CMAG.

Red, White and Blue has spent some $1.3 million on Super Tuesday, and has been running an ad in Ohio that goes after Romney for his alleged similarities to the man all Republicans want to defeat in November: President Obama.

"How can Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama, when on the vital decisions they're not much different?" the ad asks. "Like Obama, Romney drastically increased spending, increased state taxes and fees. Even worse, 'Romneycare' is the blueprint for 'Obamacare.' Who can win? Rick Santorum, the principled leader who's fought against big government."

Restore our Future, meanwhile, has targeted Santorum in an ad running in Ohio that uses the former Pennsylvania senator's explanation during a debate last month for why he voted to give Planned Parenthood federal funds.

"Santorum says he's the principled conservative, but that's not how he voted," says the ad. "Here are Santorum's own words on voting to fund Planned Parenthood: 'While I have a personal moral objection to it, even though I don't support it, ... I voted for bills that included it.' Twenty years in Washington changed Santorum's principles."

Newt Gingrich, who hasn't had a victory since South Carolina in January, has focused most of his efforts on winning Georgia, the state he represented in Congress. The superPAC that backs him, Winning Our Future, has spent $1.1 million in the state, a little less than a third of the dollars it has spent overall on Super Tuesday.

"We're looking at 5- or 6-dollar-gas," says a woman in an ad by Winning Our Future. "Romney's not the type to pump his own gas. Newt's got a plan for American-made energy. More American jobs. Get the government out of the way. Newt's for paychecks, not food stamps. Newt's my man, no doubt about it."

While most superPAC ads throughout the primary season have been attacking candidates, Restore Our Future has been running a positive message in Ohio about Romney, whose approval ratings have plummeted since the primary season began. It highlights an episode when, as CEO of Bain Capital, Romney suspended the company's operations to find a missing girl, the daughter of an employee.

"Mitt's done a lot of things people say are nearly impossible, but for me, the most important thing he's ever done is to help save my daughter," says the employee. The ad closes with a voice saying, "Restore Our Future is responsible for the content of this message."

Kantar Media's Goldstein says it will be interesting to see, if Romney does restore his mantle of inevitability on Tuesday, how his ads and those of the superPAC that supports him might change.

"What's the strategy of the Romney campaign?" Goldstein asks. "What's the strategy of Restore Our Future? Do they go after President Obama, or do they take this chance to reintroduce their own guy to the American people after a pretty rocky last couple months?"

It's not just Republicans who have been spending money on Super Tuesday. Priorities USA Action, the superPAC that backs President Obama, spent a relatively small amount, some $77,000, on TV ads in Ohio, which will be a key swing state come the general election in November.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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