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Must Reads for Monday, Nov. 12, 2012

Karl Rove's PACs spent an estimated $127 million on ads supporting Mitt Romney. (Photo by Eric Thayer/REUTERS)
Karl Rove's PACs spent an estimated $127 million on ads supporting Mitt Romney.


...Rove’s groups lavished some $300 million on Republican races, including the presidential campaign, into which they plunked an estimated $127 million on ads in support of Romney. They plunked more than $11 million into the Senate race in Virginia, which Republicans lost, and anywhere from $1 million to $7 million into another nine Senate campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In only one of those races, in Nevada, did the Republican candidate prevail. ... Rove’s awful election night proved that you can’t buy momentum or create it simply by decreeing it, and that there’s a boundary to what bluster accomplishes. The road he zoomed down in 2012 was toward a potentially diminished place in his party...


There is something supremely cynical about the notion among Republican conservatives that they could use their ability to make unlimited contributions to “super PACs” and shadowy social-welfare groups to buy an election. It views voters as a flock of sheep, easily hypnotized by misleading ads, willing to believe whatever wealthy industrialists tell them about taxes, jobs and health care. Granted, television ads have long played an excessive role in American politics, substituting cheap accusations for discourse, but this was the year they went too far. In state after swing state, voters said they were overwhelmed by the din of ads and tuned it all out.


Obama’s voters are invested in growth, raising incomes and reducing unemployment, not austerity and budget balancing. And this may have been the most important aspect of Obama’s first post-election policy statement. He did not lead with balancing the budget. “Our top priority,” he said right at the start, “has to be jobs and growth,” and then listed his proposals to expand opportunities. Obama seems to understand that the interests of the coalition that elected him overlap with the national interest. And the politics of the moment reinforce the balanced approach he is advancing now. You get the sense that Republicans understand this and will eventually act accordingly.


...The cash that really counted was the more than $100 million that the Obama campaign used from May through July in the battleground states to portray Mitt Romney as Gordon Gekko without the social conscience. The Election Day exit polls show that Mr. Romney's image never recovered from that ad barrage. He ran largely a biographical campaign and the Obama campaign destroyed his business biography. ...The real problem this year wasn't too much campaign spending but too little. The GOP lacked the cash to counter the attack ads when its candidate really needed it. Mr. Romney raised enough money after the conventions, but by then it was too late to expand the field of competition other than with a late sneak attack of the kind the campaign tried in Pennsylvania.