Inside Story: US 2012
Romney's Florida win: More money than policy?
After Mitt Romney's resounding victory, we ask if money is doing the real talking in this Republican nomination race.
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2012 09:42

If he was concerned after South Carolina, it was all smiles again for Mitt Romney in the latest leg of the Republican nomination race in Florida where he secured a decisive win.

"The reason people end up quoting the very ads they hate is because people are hardwired to like gossip, in any language, so we all like gossip. And a negative ad is a highly distilled 30 or 60 seconds of gossip. That's why people remember it and it has an effect. If it didn't work, nobody would do it."

- Rich Galen, a Republican analyst

The former Massachusetts governor won the Florida primary by an overwhelming margin. It is 'winner takes all' in this state, so he swept up all 50 delegates.

The race is still in its early stages, but Romney appears to be well placed against his main rival, Newt Gingrich.

Nevertheless, Gingrich has vowed to keep fighting until the party convention. The former House Speaker argues the contest is now a two-horse race.

And Gingrich hopes to galvanise the support of the two trailing candidates, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, whose prospects now look bleak.

It has been a contest characterised by negative advertising, funded by the now-dominant political action committees. The main donors of these so-called Super PACs have just been named, further underlining the vast wealth needed to influence a US election.

"What we learnt here is that money talks, organisation is important and you need momentum. Florida has 10 major media markets, you really need to have some money to win in this state. Issues like foreclosure and unemployment were largely overlooked in the face of 'Hurricane Mitt, Hurricane Newt' as they went head-to-head, these were category 5 storms."

- Sergio Bustos, the Miami Herald's political editor

In 2010, a US Supreme Court ruling allowed so-called Super PACs to spend unlimited funds as long as they did not coordinate with the candidate.

Barack Obama, the US president, has repeatedly criticised the court ruling that opened the way for Super PACs to operate freely.

Currently, the biggest spender is the pro-Romney "Restore Our Future", which has spent more than $17m so far. The campaign raised $30m last year.

The two-month old pro-Gingrich "Winning our Future" campaign has spent nearly $9m so far.

As for the candidates, they have touted various ideas during the campaign, from self-deportation to moon colonies.

In a state where a lot was said, was it ultimately money that really did the talking?

Was Romney's victory more down to financial might than policy? What factors won him Florida, and will they win the presidency?

Inside Story US 2012, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses with guests: Rich Galen, a Republican analyst and former communications director for Newt Gingrich; Nick Nyhart, the president of the Public Campaign Action Fund, a group dedicated to campaign finance reform; and Sergio Bustos, the political editor of the Miami Herald.

"Candidates have always been dependent on fairly big money or people who can bundle an amount of money, so ordinary people have never been the major funders of politics."

Nick Nyhart, the president of the Public Campaign Action Fund

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