Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The political parties aren't ... quite dead

If you accept the notion that money has too much influence in politics, consider GOP strategist Karl Rove, who had visions of creating a "permanent Republican majority." Turns out that the all-powerful Rove was incapable of buying a few Senate seats. The two independent political groups he spearheaded, American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, spent somewhere between $176 million and $300 million backing Mitt Romney and a targeted group of Senate and House candidates. What did he and his donors get for their money? Not much.

We know Romney lost. But so did 10 of the 12 Senate candidates and four of the nine House contenders the Rove groups backed. Bloomberg News reported.

Which brings me to John Hood's column today reviewing (among other things) the tenor of the presidential campaign. It included this gem:

Because the Republicans relied heavily on independent expenditures to make up for President Obama’s advantage in hard money, they were forced to make less-efficient advertising buys. Under federal law, the campaigns themselves are entitled to preferential rates from broadcast stations. But independent groups buying time to boost their favorite candidates or criticize others buy their ad time at higher rates. Want to see the difference? During the last week in October, the Romney campaign spent $12.9 million to air about 20,000 ads while a pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, spent $13.4 million to air about 11,000 ads.

“Given the stiff competition for airtime in battleground states, and the resulting rise in the prices that outside group sponsors are paying, it is starting to dawn on political contributors that sending their money to these groups may not be the most efficient way to get their favored candidates elected,” said Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “I suspect that contributors may reevaluate their giving patterns before 2016 rolls around.”

So the much-reviled (by the Left, anyway) Citizens United Supreme Court decision may have allowed a lot more money to flow into political races, but the evil geniuses on the Right weren't able to transform those dollars into wins. At least not uniformly.

As John suggested, political donors may well look to those relics of a bygone era, political parties, to handle their campaign contributions over the next election cycle or two. The parties offer a tangible benefit: more ads for fewer dollars; and an intangible one: none of the stigma attached to the "shadowy" independent groups.

So the political parties, which allegedly have been pushing up the daisies since David Broder wrote their obituary in 1972, may just have been pining for the fjords after all.