This article cross-posted from The Nation
Mitt Romney is the least appealing front-runner for a Republican presidential nomination since Herbert Hoover convinced an appropriately skeptical Grand Old Party to renominate him in 1932.
And Hoover, for all his faults, was a far more commendable figure than the Bain Capitalist will ever be.
Romney has scant personal appeal, as polling and anecdotal evidence confirms on a daily basis. After pondering several options for the most ironically absurd headline of the week, the editors of the satirical newspaper the Onion chose for their current edition: "Romneymania Sweeps America."
Romney, pro-choice before he was anti-choice, pro-healthcare reform before he was anti-healthcare reform, has no ideological appeal to a party of purists.
And Romney, now fully identified as the poster boy for crony capitalism, rapacious greed and tax avoidance, has an increasingly limited appeal as a potentially electable Republican nominee in November.
What Romney does have is money. Lots of it. More money in campaign accounts and Super PAC cash flows than the rest of the candidates combined. And he is spending it, wildly. Even before today's Florida primary, it was reported that Romney was outspending his closest rival, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, by roughly $12 million.
Specifically, the Romney campaign has spent $6.9 million to air commercials on the state's broadcast and cable channels by Monday morning. Romney's Restore Our Future Super PAC has spent a reported $8.5 million on the same channels. Total: $15.4 million.
For Gingrich, it's $1.6 million in spending by the campaign and $2.2 million by his Winning Our Future Super PAC. Total: $3.8 million.
Romney is spending unprecedented amounts for a primary, while his opponents are not. That explains Romney's rise in the polls, not his modestly more muscular debate performances. Indeed, if the quality of debate performances mattered, Rick Santorum, whose recent appearances have been his strongest, would be leading the pack. But Santorum does not have the money. Neither, realistically, does Gingrich. And Ron Paul is not really playing in Florida; he has placed his bets on caucuses in Maine and Nevada.
So it is entirely possible that, when all is said and done, Romney will spend more than all the other candidates on the Florida GOP primary ballot.
But he has done much more than that. Romney is spending at historic levels in Florida.
Consider this: in 1960, according to the Federal Communication Commission, a total of $10,052,322 was spent on political commercials by all the candidates. Romney and his Super PAC have already overshot that by $5 million.
Money matters in politics. And it may buy Romney "love."
But the real question is: How much?
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