While the polls have constantly fluctuated in the last week before Tuesday's GOP presidential primary in Florida, one number has seen a steady rise: the campaign money being pumped into the Sunshine State. Helping to boost the total: The two super PACs supporting frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have spent more than $15 million in the state. That number makes 38 percent of all presidential super PAC spending that Sunlight is tracking.
About 66 percent of all super PAC spending in the races thus far has come from just two of super PACs, the pro-Romney Restore Our Future and the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future, supporting the GOP front runners, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, FEC records show. And the Florida primary has seen the most money from the two camps so far.
Both super PACs upped their spending drastically last week when Gingrich and Romney were in a pitched battle for Florida; both poured in the dollars to run negative ads on the candidate they opposed.
Restore Our Future, in the race a bit earlier, has disclosed spending money in Florida as early as December, while the super PAC backing Gingrich appears to have had to wait for an injection of cash after his win in South Carolina when gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife reportedly pumped some $10 million dollars into Winning Our Future.
Gaining momentum from the South Carolina win, Gingrich moved into Florida with a nine point lead but has slumped steadily. Just a week later, Romney had a 16 points just a week later. In the interim, the candidates had a go at each other last week in the debate arena, while the super PACs had their say on the airwaves.
Although, it is yet to be seen whether the super PAC spending thwarted Gingrich’s surge, the first anti-Gingrich ads, roughly coinciding with the former House speaker's downturn in the polls, accused him of exaggerating his connection to former President Ronald Reagan, noting that the GOP icon’s diaries mention Gingrich only once -- an observation Romney also made during one of the debates. "Reagan criticized Gingrich saying Newt's ideas would "cripple our defense program”,” the ad notes.
In a double blow to Gingrich, the Romney campaign ran an ad around the same time which attacked Gingrich for his work for Freddie Mac at the time of the housing crisis.
Winning the Future’s negative ads are a series titled “Think you know Mitt?” One ad that hit the Florida airwaves features sound bites of Romney from when he was the governor of Massachussetts talking about the state healthcare bill he signed and likens him to Obama. Another ad in the series zeroes in on Romney's changing record on abortion.
Other outside groups spending money in the the Florida GOP primary includes Democratic-leaning labor union AFSCME, which has invested at least $1 million for ads against Romney. The labor union's committee is not super PAC, but can make independent expenditures to run ads as long as it does not coordinating with any candidate. Unlike super PACs, traditional PACs must abide by FEC's $5,000 limit on how much individual donors can give the committees in a calendar year.