Rise of the superpacs changes the nature of the election
THE GRIM piano soundtrack is gone. So too are the ominous voice-overs and sombre lighting effects. Suddenly, after months of relentless attacks ads, many conservative campaigns in the run-up to polling day are going, well, soft.
One of the adverts – called “Genuinely cares” – is by the pro-Romney conservative group Restore Our Future. It features an Iraq veteran and amputee talking about how the Republican candidate visited him in hospital and took an interest in his story.
“The Mitt Romney I know cares deeply about people who are struggling,” the former soldier, Peter Damon, says. “He helped make a huge difference in my life.” It’s the latest sign that pro-Romney supporters see an opportunity for its candidate to shrink the gender gap and challenge Democrat attempts to portray him as an uncaring vulture capitalist.
Restore Our Future is one of the richest “political action committees” – dubbed superpacs – around, and is spending some $18 million on the advert in battleground states as well as Democrat-leaning Michigan.
As well as highlighting a change in tactics, the intervention also shines a light on the shadowy world of wealthy campaign groups who are playing an increasingly dominant role on both sides of the political divide.
These often-secretive groups are redefining the way elections are fought by opening up multiple fronts of attack as the presidential race enters its final days. While by law a superpac can’t co-ordinate with a candidate’s campaign, many are sceptical that this is adhered to.
Michigan is a good example. A classic rust-belt state, the auto bailout has been popular among thousands of workers who depend on the industry. In fact, the state hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
So confident has the Obama team been of victory, it hasn’t spent any advertising money there for the past five months. Instead, it has focused on organising its army of volunteers on the ground.
Now that may all be about to change. The intervention of Restore Our Future and other superpacs suddenly changes the dynamics of the race.
The conservative group believes that with polls showing the race tightening, and a small group of voters still undecided, a barrage of messages in the final days before the election could make all the difference. Local polls indicate Obama is in front by six percentage points, but the gap is narrowing.
A spokesman for the local Republican Party said it was not involved with the superpac’s intervention, but said it would complement its own ground war.
“We have a strong ground game that can help close the deal,” the spokesman told reporters yesterday. “There’s no way the president can win re-election without Michigan.”