Newt Gingrich was just days away from the Jan. 31 Florida Republican presidential primary when he told reporters that his campaign was down to its last $600,000.
Five losing contests later, Gingrich and Winning Our Future, an outside political action committee supporting him, are almost silent on television airwaves, offering free water and coffee at events, and revamping a fundraising strategy based largely on the support of a single wealthy backer, Sheldon Adelson, and the Las Vegas casino owner’s family.
In the past seven days, Winning Our Future has spent $61,290 on broadcast television advertisements, compared with $636,920 spent by Mitt Romney and a super-PAC backing him, Restore Our Future, according to data compiled by New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, a company that tracks advertising.
For now, the Adelsons don’t plan to deliver another big check to float Gingrich’s campaign, according to a person familiar with their deliberations. The family has donated a combined $11 million to Gingrich’s super-PAC in the past two months, according to interviews and Federal Election Commission records. An Adelson spokesman declined to comment.
Gingrich’s shifting fortunes offer insight into how the rise of super-PACs and wealthy donors in the 2012 presidential campaign can change the dynamics of the contest in a short period of time.
Closing the Spigot
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out of the primary on Aug. 14 and now backs Romney, said in a Feb 6 MSNBC interview that he hopes Adelson will “shut off the spigot on Newt Gingrich’s super-PAC.”
“With all due respect to Newt, he’s not going to be the nominee, and by continuing to fund that super-PAC, Mr. Adelson continues Newt’s campaign in a way that I think is not productive or helpful,” Pawlenty said.
Gingrich, a former U.S. House speaker, has said he will continue his presidential bid in spite of recent setbacks. Winning Our Future is shifting its focus to “grassroots fundraising” of amounts between $2,500 and seven figures, Rick Tyler, the committee’s senior adviser, said in an interview yesterday.
“We’re going to more aggressively go after those donors,” Tyler said. Super-PACs can accept unlimited amounts from individuals, companies and unions, whereas the candidates are limited to $2,500 from each per cycle.
No TV Spending
As Tyler declined to comment on how much cash Winning Our Future has left, Foster Friess, a major donor to the Red, White and Blue Fund, a super-PAC backing Rick Santorum, said in a Bloomberg Television interview yesterday that money is “just absolutely rolling in” since the former Pennsylvania senator won three primary contests this week.
Friess said a single unidentified donor -- not him -- contributed $1 million to the fund and sent even more money this week.
Santorum won the Iowa caucuses and placed first on Feb. 7 in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. Romney came out on top in New Hampshire, Florida and Nevada. Gingrich has one win, the South Carolina primary. The nomination contest moves to Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28.
“We will be fine,” Tyler said of his super-PAC’s finances. “Fundraising definitely has its ebbs and flows. We could get a check this afternoon.”
About half of the money Winning Our Future collected by Dec. 31 came from Adelson’s step-daughters, who contributed a combined $1 million, the year-end FEC report shows.
The casino owner and his wife, Miriam, made two $5 million contributions in January, according to Tyler.
On Jan. 24, Tyler announced that the committee would spend $6 million on ads in Florida to help Gingrich, who was then fresh off his win in South Carolina on Jan. 21.
CMAG data show that the committee bought $1.8 million worth of network TV time in the state. Tyler said the rest of the money went to cable television and Internet ads, which aren’t tracked by CMAG.
After losing to Romney in Florida by 14 percentage points, neither Gingrich nor the super-PAC spent money on network TV ads in Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, CMAG data show.
At the same time, the pro-Santorum fund bought an estimated $245,950 in those states and Romney and Restore Our Future spent about $967,970. The fourth Republican candidate, U.S. Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, spent about $238,440 on network TV ads.
Winning Our Future will use its resources in “greener pastures for Newt,” Tyler said, such as Idaho, which holds its primary on March 6 and Texas, which votes April 3.
Apart from the super-PACs, Romney has long held a fundraising advantage over Gingrich. Romney closed out 2011 with $19.9 million in cash and no debt; Gingrich reported $2.1 million in the bank and $1.2 million owed, according to FEC reports released Jan. 31.
Santorum ended the year with $278,934 in the bank and $204,836 in debt, the FEC report shows. His fundraising is picking up, he said in recent interviews. Since the night of his three wins, Santorum has raised more than $2 million, campaign manager Michael Biundo wrote on Twitter last night.
R.C. Hammond, Gingrich’s spokesman, said in an interview at a stop on Feb. 8 in Cleveland that the campaign’s finances are “doing fine.” He said Gingrich was “pledged” $2 million from meetings in Las Vegas before the Feb. 4 Nevada caucus, declining to give more details.
New Fundraising Priority
Since the Florida loss, Gingrich has been dedicating more time to fundraising, Hammond said.
“Dialing for dollars is a large section of the day. It’s not something he was doing the week of the Florida primary,” Hammond said Feb. 2. “It’s part of his regular schedule now.”
Gingrich will spend Valentine’s Day next week at the Fresno, California, home of Wendy and Ryan Turner, according to the Fresno Bee, where couples must pay $1,000 for entry and $2,500 if they want a photograph with the presidential candidate.
The different financial capabilities of the Romney and Gingrich campaigns were on display this week.
Gingrich appeared the morning of Feb. 6 at a Marriott hotel in Golden, Colorado, where a subdued audience, sipping water and coffee, filled about half of a ballroom where a few campaign signs were posted.
The next day, Romney stopped at RV America in Loveland, Colorado. The campaign decorated the business with Romney signs and provided breakfast burritos, donuts and choice of drinks for free to the attendees, who were cheering the candidate’s name before the event began.
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