To read the news coverage of late, you could be forgiven for thinking that we’re headed into a campaign in which super PACs will determine the winner. Ten million dollars from Sheldon Adelson here, $1 million from Bill Maher there, and it’s easy to conclude that these new organizations will have the biggest say in the identity of the next president and control of Congress. But it’s not quite so simple. In fact, the realities of campaign advertising today still put a premium on candidates themselves — and specifically, on their fundraising. As a rule of thumb, super PACs and national party committees pay significantly more for ad space (on average, about 40 to 50 percent more) than candidates do, meaning their dollar doesn’t go nearly as far on TV. And in a crowded media market, that markup can reach as high as three, four or even five times as much as the candidates when the super PACs and party committees have to pay extra to bump existing ads off the air. The Arizona special election on Tuesday is a good example of this ad reality.
Super PACs and the national party committees on each side spent more than Rep.-elect Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) did in the Tucson-based district formerly held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Outside groups on the left and right spent nearly $1 million a piece on ads, compared to about $900,000 for Barber. But because Barber was paying a lower rate, he wound up airing significantly more Gross Ratings Points (GRP) — a technical term which measures the reach of the ads. (An ad with 1,000 points behind it means that the average person will see the ad 10 times in a week.)
Even as the House Majority super PAC and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee combined to narrowly outspend Barber, he was able to air 8,700 GRPs compared to 5,700 GRPs for the two outside groups combined, according to numbers provided by a Democratic media buyer. A second, and perhaps less important distinction: party committees and super PACs are forbidden from working with the candidate on the ads, and candidates can’t appear in super PAC ads. (Party committees can technically coordinate with the candidates to a very limited extent, but the vast majority of their spending is independent of the candidate.) So these candidate ads, by featuring the candidate him- or herself, can be more impactful and more on-message than the outside groups’ ads.
Full Article: The super PAC election? Not quite – The Washington Post.