In Iowa, pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future crushed pro-Newt Gingrich Winning Our Future PAC, spending 10 times more in television ads and helping to knock Gingrich from frontrunner to also-ran. But in South Carolina, the two PACs spent about $3 million each on advertising fighting to a draw. Gingrich's win in South Carolina Saturday night was earned more by the candidate's performance on the ground than his supporters' air cover.
In particular, a majority of South Carolina voters said the candidates' debate performances mattered and Gingrich was coming off a memorable Thursday night performance as voters went to the polls today. The opening question of that debate was whether Gingrich asked his second wife, Marianne Gingrich, for an open marriage or a divorce after revealing an affair with his now third wife, Callista Gingrich. The former House speaker played to the GOP base's mistrust of the media by calling the question a despicable way to begin a presidential debate, winning big audience applause. In fact, Marianne Gingrich's claim, and the huge amount of coverage it generated, didn't appear to affect the race much at all.
The pro-Newt and pro-Romney super PAC ads likely canceled each other out as voters made their decisions. With no standout ads driving earned media coverage, the political wall of noise coming from South Carolina TVs likely became nothing more than background noise.
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