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Super PAC money keeps candidates afloat longer

Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich participate in a debate in Mesa, Ariz. Super Tuesday is coming up, and the field of candidates remains undiminished, thanks to this year's unlimited super PAC donations.

Adriene Hill: First to the Republican primary race, where frontrunner Mitt Romney pulled off wins in both Arizona and Michigan yesterday. They're big scores for the former Massachusetts governor, but not enough to push his opponents out.

Turns out this year's unlimited super PAC donations are giving more candidates the ability to compete longer.

Marketplace's John Dimsdale reports.


John Dimsdale: In the primaries so far, over 300 state GOP delegates have been selected. Yet even candidates with little chance of reaching the magic number for nomination are still in the fray.

Larry Makinson: Used to be, candidates for president would drop out after they lose a few primaries. Now they don’t drop out until they lose the millionaires who are paying for the ads on those super PACs

Larry Makinson has been tracking money in politics for 25 years. 

Makinson: It’s not the voters who are deciding who stays in or who gets out. It’s those people who are sending in those very big checks.

Checks that pay for a lot of negative ads, which Makinson says undermine voter trust in all the candidates.

Prof. Bruce Oppenheimer at Vanderbilt University says the longer super PACs drag out the Republican electoral battle, the tougher it’ll be on the winner of the primaries.

Bruce Oppenheimer: That person is going to be a bit more beaten up politically.

Oppenheimer figures voter disgust with super PAC-sponsored ads is also contributing to declining turnout in recent primaries.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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