Start with the last presidential election. Most of the nearly half billion dollars â€” $374 million out of a total of $486 million â€” doled out by â€œsuper PACsâ€ and other independent expenditure committees during the general election was by Republican groups, more than triple the $112 million spent independently in support of President Obama.
Clearly, this cash advantage did not tip the scales. Stuart Stevens, chief strategist of Mitt Romneyâ€™s campaign, argues that the huge expenditures by Republican groups were essentially wasted.
â€œWhat we discovered on our side, to our surprise and disappointment, was that there were some superb pro-Romney ads, but there was little impact on voters, not what we would have expected them to have,â€ Stevens told a postelection colloquium on Feb. 5 at the University of Chicagoâ€™s Institute of Politics.
Stevens argued that the â€œmost important answerâ€ in explaining the ineffectiveness of the super PAC ads â€œwas that they were not coordinated with the campaign. They produced ads that were good as they stood alone, but they werenâ€™t directing one message.â€
Obama, according to Stevens, did not have this problem because he was less dependent on super PAC support and his campaign directly controlled a much higher percentage of the money spent on his behalf. Obamaâ€™s control of cash empowered his campaign to deliver messages and themes that his strategists wanted to stress with little competition from independent groups pushing for him.
Stevens cited Federal Election Commission reports to show that Obama was able to raise more â€œeffectiveâ€ dollars than Romney, even though the overall balance favored Romney by $140 million, $1.25 billion to $1.11 billion.Â