“The Death Star” is the nickname of the mighty, pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future (ROF), which — the last time we and the Federal Elections Commission looked — was at $30.2 million in contributions and rising.
This morning, the website Buzzfeed.com reports that in a Republican establishment version of The Empire Strikes Back, ROF has gone on a buying binge, purchasing millions worth of television and radio ads in eight states with upcoming contests “in an attempt to overpower Romney’s surging rival, Rick Santorum.”
With Santorum now leading in several polls (by as little as three or as much as fifteen points), the Romney team hopes to do to him what they did to Newt Gingrich in Iowa and Florida: overwhelm the airwaves and the opposition with advertising, much of it negative. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Romney campaign and ROF have purchased nearly $2 million in TV and radio time in Romney’s home state of Michigan, “This contrasts,” the Journal noted, “with the $42,443 the Santorum campaign has reserved in airtime for its own ads ahead of the February 28 primary in Michigan, according to data supplied by a Democratic media firm and confirmed by a Republican campaign operative.”
You read that right: only $42,443. But that’s not counting the $663,500 Michigan ad buy Santorum’s super PAC, The Red, White and Blue Fund, announced on Thursday. Still, the Associated Press reported, “Santorum, seeking to maintain momentum from his recent victories, sought to use Romney’s financial dominance against him with a David-versus-Goliath message.”
“’We’re not going to win this race the way Gov. Romney has won the states he’s won already, by outspending his opponent by 5-to-1 and beating them up. He’s not going to outspend Barack Obama 5-to-1,’ Santorum said last week in Dallas. ‘How are you going to win an election if your greatest attribute is ‘I’ll spend more money than the other person?'”
Paul West in the Los Angeles Times writes, “Santorum, with no state organization or realistic hope of matching Romney on TV, is counting on the backing of social conservatives, evangelical Christians and supporters of the tea party movement, who together could cast more than half of the primary vote.”
What’s more, the Michigan primary is open to any registered voter, so Democrats and independents could rush to the polls and hand Santorum a win, as they did in 2000 when John McCain upset George W. Bush.
On The Atlantic magazine’s blog, Molly Ball concludes — inconclusively — “The state’s Feb. 28 primary stands to settle the vexing question of whether Romney is the unassailable GOP nominee, despite some temporary turbulence, or a paper tiger whose inability to seal the deal will cost him the race for the second time.
“And at the moment, there’s no telling which way Michigan will go.”
In the immortal words of Han Solo, “Never tell me the odds.” But any Star Wars fan knows what happened to the Death Star…