"The campaign isn't about ads," Mitt Romney said during Saturday's Republican debate in South Carolina. "It's about issues."
That may be true in theory, but, after getting off to a slow start, the 2012 presidential race may set records for both the number of political ads aired during the campaign and the amount of money spent on them. Last June, Moody's Investors Service forecast that spending on political ads this campaign cycle would surpass 2008's then-record of $2 billion, and even topple the $2.3 billion haul produced by 2010's midterm elections--especially when Barack Obama opens up his $27 million-plus war chest.
Those numbers are being fueled by the rise in super PACs, which have emerged as political hit men--a way for candidates to attack rivals without getting their hands dirty. (Some candidates apparently don't mind a little dirt on their hands. Newt Gingrich's campaign released a new Web ad on Thursday calling Mitt Romney "desperate.")
In South Carolina alone, campaigns have spent close to $10 million on TV ads, with most of that money spent by the super PACs. Since December, Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting Rick Perry's now-defunct campaign, had committed $1.6 million to running local TV ads in South Carolina--more than any other PAC or campaign, according to the New York Times.
And while millions of viewers will watch the ads on television, an effective ad (or stump speech or talk-show hit) uploaded to YouTube by the campaigns or their respective super PACs can garner several hundred thousand additional views.
Not surprisingly, Ron Paul is the most popular 2012 candidate on YouTube, with campaign videos supporting his candidacy generating more than 15 million views. Rick Perry, before dropping out of the race, was pulling in second. Videos on Perry's official YouTube channel racked up more than 14 million views before he called it quits. Perry also has the single-most viewed political ad of the election season--a controversial December TV ad touting his Christian faith, and condemning homosexuality. The video has been viewed more than 7 million times.
After the jump, a campaign-by-campaign overview of web-video output, along with candidates' top-three most viewed videos:
Videos: 35 Views: 1,369,000
Videos: 24 Views: 224,000
NOTE: YouTube views as of Jan. 18; total includes non-campaign ads, including stump speeches and talk-show appearances
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