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Biggest loser in Pennsylvania primary isn't Santorum

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That sniffling sound you hear is not Rick Santorum's supporters bemoaning his decision Tuesday to pull the plug on his presidential campaign but the managers of the Keystone State's television stations counting the ad dollars they have lost. There are 46 of them, according to the Community Media Database created and maintained by Rob McCausland.

So far this year, the race for the Republican presidential nomination has brought a bonanza of ad dollars to broadcasters in states that have played host to early contests, the more so because of the rise of super PACs, political action committees that can raise and spend money in unlimited amounts in support of -- or opposition to -- candidates for office.

In the recent Wisconsin primary, Sunlight's Follow the Unlimited Money tracker finds that presidential super PACs alone pumped $3.7 million into the local economy, much of it for media buys. In Florida, presidential super PACs spent $19.1 million; in South Carolina, $8.7 million and in neighboring Ohio, $5.1 million.

Spending in Pennsylvania had only begun to ramp up in advance of the much anticipated April 24 primary featuring Santorum, who represented the state for 16 years in Congress, and GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney. The biggest ticket item on our tracker so far: $153,000 in media buys by the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future for ads in opposition to Santorum.

But local station managers had to be licking their chops at reports that Romney was planning to launch a multi-million-dollar ad war to finish Santorum off. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the first volley in the air war was scheduled to begin Monday, but that the campaign decided to delay it when Santorum took time off the campaign trail to be with his three-year-old daughter, who has a genetic disorder and was hospitalized earlier this week. One day later, Santorum cited his daughter's condition in announcing his decision to bring his campaign to a more definitive conclusion.

Despite Santorum's home state roots, there were questions about whether he could win the state, which he lost by 18 percentage points when he last ran for Senate in 2006. Moreover, Pennsylvania's centrist brand of politics (54 percent of the state's voters favored President Obama in 2008 and two years later the exact same margin made Tom Corbett, a Republican, their governor) is more in line with Romney's profile this year than that of Santorum.

As Sunlight has documented, the ex-senator, while in Congress, focused on the polarizing issue of abortion and showed an unusual propensity for gynecological terms. In a recent Franklin & Marshall College poll that showed the race between Romney and Santorum narrowing, 32 percent of Republicans responding rated the economy as the most important issue in determining which candidate would get their vote, compared to one percent who cited "social issues."