Could Democratic fears of a Republican super PAC ‘avalanche’ be exaggerated?

by
March 25, 2012

By , Washington Post

A month after Democrats warned that Republicans and conservative super PACs were poised to outspend President Obama in the fall, new fundraising reports suggest that such fears could be overblown.

Obama and his key political allies had more than twice as much cash on hand at the beginning of March as presumptive rival Mitt Romney and his supporters, who continue to burn through most of their money in a nasty and interminable nomination feud, according to disclosure reports.

Even a phalanx of well-funded conservative super PACs hasn’t been able to stockpile enough money to rival Obama, who had nearly $85 million in his campaign bank account at the end of February, records show. Several of the key GOP super PACs also have seen fundraising numbers decline, even in the heat of a nomination contest.

The figures suggest a new possibility: that super PACs could have a more limited impact on the general election than it appears from the Republican primaries, where they have dominated spending in part because most of the candidates have raised relatively little.

“I think there’s a real possibility that super PACs won’t be that important in the general election after all,” said Bradley A. Smith, a former Republican-appointed chairman of the Federal Election Commission who advocates fewer restrictions on political spending. “Obama’s got a huge amount of money, and he will probably vastly outspend Romney, assuming he’s the nominee.”

Both sides, of course, are furiously spinning the numbers to their advantage. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina warned last month that Democrats would be buried in an “avalanche” of negative super PAC ads, and urged donors to step up in response.

Republicans, meanwhile, cast the Obama operation as a juggernaut that could raise $1 billion or more, and portray super PACs, fueled by wealthy donors, as a vital tool allowing conservatives to close the gap.

“The Democrats are saying, ‘We’re going to be seriously outgunned here, we’re David and they’re Goliath,’ ” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending. “But the side that’s supposed to be Goliath is saying, ‘No, they’re the ones with the Hollywood money and the union money. They’re the real money machine.’ Each side has its own spin.”

Super PACs and other independent groups have clearly played a pivotal role in the Republican primaries, which have been much less expensive overall than previous contests. A pro-Romney group has repeatedly crushed his opponents with negative ads in key battleground states, while other super PACs have helped Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich keep their shoestring campaigns alive.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/could-democratic-fears-of-a-republican-super-pac-avalanche-be-exaggerated/2012/03/21/gIQAnjJRYS_story.html

 

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