ORLANDO, Florida — Florida’s television and radio airwaves are being bombarded with political attack-ads funded by Republican presidential hopefuls and their backers in such numbers that it is difficult to escape them.
Targeting Latinos, the elderly, and followers of the ultra-conservative Tea Party, the ads all have the same goal: to destroy the other candidate no matter what it takes before Tuesday’s all-important primary in the Sunshine state.
Millions of dollars have been spent on the messages. Some are paid for by the Republican candidates’ campaigns but most are funded by their unaffiliated Super-PACS (political action committees), which have no limit on donations.
This weekend Newt Gingrich, who is trailing Mitt Romney in the polls after two disappointing tv debate performances, launched two vitriolic ads seeking to portray his opponent as weak, dishonest and not up to the job of US president.
“What kind of man would mislead, distort and deceive just to win an election?” the 63-second ad’s narrator asked, stating that former Massachusetts governor Romney has wrongfully smeared Gingrich’s reputation.
Against a black and white photograph of Romney, sporting a self-satisfied smile, the voice answered back: “This man would.” The ad was paid for by former House of Representatives speaker Gingrich’s official election campaign.
One of his aligned Super-PACS hit even harder, with a seven-minute film, entitled “Blood Money,” which alleges that Romney enriched himself courtesy of a large Medicare fraud, committed in the 1990s by a company he helped run.
Overlaid by the dramatic pitch of violins, the message has the drama of a Hollywood movie trailer as it mentions bank accounts held in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands by multi-millionaire Romney, as images of a couple of bereaved seniors fill the screen.
Romney, whose campaign war chest is vastly bigger than Gingrich’s has hit every bit as hard with broadcasts that deride Gingrich’s record as house speaker between 1995 and 1999, which ended in censure after an ethics scandal.
One Romney ad concluded with a picture of President Barack Obama and a voice saying: “If Newt Gingrich wins, this man would be very happy.”
Another ad broadcast on Saturday used an excerpt from NBC television, citing an overwhelming House of Representatives vote that condemned Gingrich for ethics violations for which he was later fined $300,000.
On country radio, meanwhile, the Romney campaign slammed Gingrich’s often recited ties to late Republican president Ronald Reagan. Also on radio, Gingrich lambasted Romney for changing his stance on abortion.
For weeks the two leading Republican candidates for the 2008 US election have sunk millions of dollars into Florida.
The Romney campaign has bought $5.6 million of advertising space and an associated Super-PAC “Restore Our Future,” according to ABC television.
The Gingrich campaign in contrast spent $837,000, but a Super-PAC “Winning Our Future,” has spent $3 million.
But their struggling rivals Ron Paul and Rick Santorum do not have the same funds and have barely campaigned in Florida.
Super-PACS came into being after a Supreme Court decision in 2010 abolished the ceiling on the contributions that corporations or other groups can make to a political campaign.
In theory, a political action committee is independent but the two biggest Super-PACS supporting Romney and Gingrich are headed by former associates.