Friday, November 09, 2012

I'm Not So Sure

(Political cartoon by Matt Wuerker and published at Daily Kos.)

There's a very interesting article up at the Los Angeles Times on the effect of super PAC spending in the 2012 election.  The authors seem to be indicating (at least from their lede) that the outrageous sums spent during this election really didn't make a difference when it came to the outcome.

In the end, the old truism held: Money isn't everything.

Deep-pocketed "super PACs" and other independent groups dumped more than $1 billion into the 2012 election, largely on behalf of Republicans, injecting a harsh tone into races across the country and driving record spending. But they failed to have the dramatic impact both sides anticipated after such intense saturation of the airwaves.

Tuesday's results challenged the notion that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had a strong edge because of heavyweight allies such as Americans for Prosperity, Restore Our Future and the two Crossroads organizations that were cofounded by Karl Rove, the political strategist and former advisor to President George W. Bush.

In fact, groups allied with President Obama claimed more success, even though they were outspent. Unions gleefully noted that they exceeded the number of voter contacts made in 2008 — one result of the Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations and unions to spend money on direct political activity. ...

The election exposed a limitation of super PACs and tax-exempt advocacy groups: Prohibited from coordinating with candidates, they served primarily as a weapon to mow down opponents, rather than a means to communicate a positive vision. And the preponderance of groups working on Romney's behalf may have overloaded voters.   [Emphasis added]

I would be willing to accept that conclusion but for the fact that President Obama also availed himself of super PAC  money even after he claimed he would eschew it.  Still, however, there's an argument to be made that the super-saturation of television, radio, and the internet caused voters' eyes to glaze over.  I think what won the election for Obama and down-ticket Democratic candidates was the spendid ground-game of the Democrats, something the GOP failed to do this time around, apparently counting on the ads to rouse their base and basest-base to show up.

That said, the L.A. Times article notes that and suggests, albeit implicitly, what we can expect in the future (presumably in 2014):

Even as they reflected on their losses, top conservative groups said Tuesday's results would not slow them down.

"We are not about just one year or one election or one issue," said Tim Phillips, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, which spent more than $190 million in the two-year cycle — a large share on ads pummeling Obama on the debt and his energy policies. "It's about building for the long haul, and that's what we're committed to doing."

AFP's contributors are not discouraged, he said. "They tell us this is a long ballgame."   [Emphasis added]

So, the super PACs and 501 (c) 4 groups will be back, presumably with a little more discipline and a little more coordination.  We're not there yet.

And the Republican governors and state legislatures will continue to try to suppress the vote.

The president better do a better job over the next two years.

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