No candidate ever wants to give the impression that he or she bought a campaign victory, even if it’s true. Just on principle, it looks unseemly.
With that in mind, it’s understandable that Mitt Romney would feel a little defensive – he’s put his flush coffers to good use in each of the nominating contests thus far, taking full advantage of his massive financial edge. Defensiveness, though, is no excuse for dishonesty.
As Florida voters cast their ballots on Tuesday, Mitt Romney spoke of the lessons he learned from the race he lost to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina just 10 days ago.
“In South Carolina we were vastly outspent with negative ads attacking me and we stood back and spoke about President Obama and suffered the consequence of that,” Romney told reporters outside his campaign headquarters [in Tampa].
Romney wasn’t “vastly outspent” in South Carolina; he was the one vastly outspending. An independent analysis found that Romney and his allied groups spent $4.6 million in the Palmetto State, while Gingrich and his allies spent $2.2 million.
Even Romney should be willing to admit $4.6 million is greater than $2.2 million.
A similar picture is emerging in Florida. Precise figures are not yet available, but the evidence so far suggests Romney has outspent Gingrich in the Sunshine State by a 5-to-1 margin. What’s more, as Rachel explained in a segment last night, Floridians have seen about 200 ads this week in support of Gingrich, and over 12,000 ads in support of Romney.
It seems fair to say that when the results are announced tonight, Romney didn’t earn the primary win so much as he purchased it.
The former governor and his team don’t care for this realization, either.
On Tuesday, Romney’s campaign pushed back, telling reporters the tale of Romney’s big spending gap is overblown.
A Romney campaign source told me Tuesday morning that Democrats are making too big a deal out of the spending disparity. After all, the Romney campaign said, Gingrich didn’t have to deal with the unions.
That’s not a bad effort, but it’s still not accurate. By all estimates, Romney and his allies have spent over $15 million in Florida, as compared to Gingrich’s total, which is between $2 million and $4 million. Yes, AFSCME has been on the air, but the union has spent less than $1 million. Add that investment to Gingrich’s expenditures, and Romney is still dominating.
It’s one thing to spin a massive financial edge, but Romney and his campaign should at least try to make their spin less blatantly mendacious.