Southern Super PAC Tuesday: Who got the most for their campaign cash?
On Super Tuesday, the South was divided.
Each Southern state picked a different Republican presidential hopeful, with Georgia going to home-state favorite Newt Gingrich; Tennessee's religious conservatives handing a victory to Rick Santorum; and Mitt Romney taking Virginia -- thanks largely to the fact that Gingrich and Santorum weren't on the ballot.
Aside from the size of Santorum's victory in Tennessee -- 37.3 percent of the vote, for 25 of the state's 46 delegates -- none of Super Tuesday's results were a big surprise. (Even that was to be expected once exit polls revealed that more than 70 percent of GOP primary voters identified as born-again or evangelical Christians.)
And in the end, none of the contests will likely change the fact that delegate math still favors Romney winning the nomination.
But that didn't stop Super PACs associated with the GOP presidential candidates from pouring more than $5 million into the three states. But how useful was the Super PAC cash to each candidate?
Georgia, which had the most delegates at stake (78), has also seen the most Super PAC money spent by the presidential candidate-linked PACs. According to the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group, more than $2.6 million came into Georgia before the primary from two sources: Winning Our Future, a PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, and the pro-Romney Restore Our Future.
For both PACs, the Georgia spending had downsides: For the pro-Gingrich PAC, the fact that they were forced to spend $1.1 million in a state where he was already heavily favored; for the pro-Romney PAC, the reality that $1.5 million only garnered their candidate 25.7 percent of the vote.
In Tennessee, the return on Super PAC investment was even more lopsided. The bulk of the more than $2.3 million spent came through the pro-Romney Restore Our Future (about $1.45 million), compared to $728,000 from Winning our Future and just $160,000 from the pro-Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund.
But in the end, Romney claimed 28 percent of the Tennessee GOP primary, with Gingrich coming in third with 24 percent.
Here's a complete chart looking at who spent money where and how that compares to the final vote:
Whatever the payoff in individual races, candidates and their allies (non-coordinated, of course) see the value in having a big Super PAC war chest: The Center for Public Integrity reports that total Super PAC spending for the 2012 presidential hopefuls has eclipsed $66 million -- already more than all of these groups spent in 2010.
Chris Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of the Institute's online magazine, Facing South.