Mitt Romney, a leader in the Republican presidential race a year out from the 2012 elections, is biding his time and saving his campaign cash as he benefits from the missteps of his rivals.
At this point four years ago, the former Massachusetts governor, who was mounting his first White House run, had spent $11 million on television advertising, according to an analysis by KantarMedia/CMAG, a New York-based firm that tracks political advertising.
Today, with the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses and Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary approaching, Romney has yet to spend a dime on commercials.
“We’ve all been waiting for when Romney is going to start airing, and you would have expected to start to see some sustained level of advertising by now,” said Ken Goldstein, CMAG’s president.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican rival, began advertising in Iowa last week and made what Paul Young, a senior adviser, called a “significant buy” of radio and TV time in New Hampshire.
His campaign, which reported $17 million in the bank as of Sept. 30, this week began airing a second TV ad in New Hampshire. Titled “Doer,” Perry criticizes President Barack Obama -- without naming him -- by saying: “If you’re looking for a slick politician or a guy with great TelePrompTer skills, we already have that, and he’s destroying our economy.”
One reason Romney has been able to wait, Goldstein said, is that the former governor is already familiar to many primary voters because of his prior race and is leading in many polls. That allows him to adopt a lower profile as his less experienced and less well-known competitors contend with scandal and campaign-trail mistakes.
“Every day that the news cycle is consumed by something else is a day that he doesn’t have to advertise,” Goldstein said of Romney.
Herman Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive officer who is leading Romney in some polls while running second in others, is working to stabilize his presidential campaign after revelations that his former employer, the National Restaurant Association, paid two women severance settlements to resolve their claims that Cain sexually harassed them while he was its president.
And Perry, who is trailing nationally and in key states, has faced scrutiny this week after an Oct. 28 New Hampshire speech in which he told jokes and displayed a less formal presence than he has at public appearances to date. Video of the speech has gone viral on the Internet.
Plenty of Cash
Romney and groups aligned with him have plenty of money to finance an advertising campaign. Romney had $14.7 million in the bank as of Sept. 30, according to disclosures he filed with the Federal Election Commission. A pro-Romney political action committee called Restore Our Future raised $12.3 million in the first half of the year.
Even as Romney hangs back, President Barack Obama’s allies are ramping up negative Internet advertising aimed at him. Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama supercommittee, on Nov. 2 bought $100,000 in Internet advertisements on the websites of Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and Google’s YouTube. The group, which has run two other anti-Romney ads on its own website, and companion organization Priorities USA have raised about $5 million.
Some Republicans say Romney is wise to ramp up his campaign efforts slowly, particularly in places like New Hampshire.
Running The Clock
“Romney’s been here before, he has 100 percent name ID among the Republican constituents, and he can wait,” said Bill Binnie, a former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who is president of Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based Carlisle Capital. “Time is on his side. He’s essentially running out the clock, and the longer this goes, the better for him.”
Neil Newhouse, the campaign’s pollster, said while Romney may not be in the lead in every poll, he’s better positioned than the other candidates. “The way I always look at it is, ‘OK, would you want to trade places with anybody out there?’” Newhouse said. “And, no. I’m pretty good with where we are.”
With the Perry campaign now started, and Romney expected to go any time, Goldstein said, “We’re now about to see the real start of the Republican presidential primary ad war.”