Despite the political carnage suffered by Republican presidential candidates at the hands of super PACs in Iowa, conservatives show no signs of buyers' remorse after supporting the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for the unlimited campaign money that fueled them.
Tuesday's Iowa caucuses were the first presidential battleground where the political world got a look at the game changing power of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that led to the rise of super PACs. But not even Newt Gingrich, who regularly complained about the pounding he took from a pro-Romney super PAC, was backing off his support for the decision.
Asked on Wednesday on MSNBC if he had any second thoughts about Citizens United after falling victim to the decision's unintended consequences, he answered, "No, I'm not the victim of that. I'm the victim of one particular person, Mitt Romney, whose staff went out and decided to run a deliberately negative and dishonest campaign." ...
Gingrich went on to argue that outside attack groups existed long before the 2010 Citizens United decision, citing the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. ... It's a sentiment that other Republican insiders echoed.
"Every cycle there is a new vehicle as the law changed," said a GOP super PAC consultant. "Campaigns have always run negative ads. The vehicle may be different, but the ads certainly weren't."
And, thanks in large part to super PACs, there was no shortage of negative ads. In Iowa, the pro-Romney Restore Our Future PAC spent about $2.7 million on television ads while Romney's campaign spent about half that amount, according to National Journal's Hotline.
The same goes for Rick Santorum, albeit on a much smaller scale than his front-running rival. Santorum, who finished second to Romney by eight votes, spent about $4,000 on TV ads in Iowa while the pro-Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund dropped more than half a million dollars in ads to boost the former Pennsylvania senator.
Meanwhile, fourth- and fifth-place finishers Gingrich and Rick Perry, respectively, dropped more money into Iowa television than the super PACs supporting them did. Perry's campaign spent almost $4 million on TV while the pro-Perry Make Us Great Again PAC kicked in about $1.5 million. Gingrich, meanwhile, spent almost $950,000 on ads and the super PAC supporting him, Winning Our Future, spent about $265,000.
The GOP primary, several insiders said, gives Republicans an opportunity to experiment with and sharpen their super PACs as they prepare for a general-election showdown with President Obama, who will have the incumbent's fundraising advantage.