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Super PACs = Long primaries + big $ for local media

Dozens of televisions display a political advertisement with the image of GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista Gingrich at the American furniture electronics and appliances store Dec. 27, 2011 in Urbandale, Iowa. The extended, expensive GOP primary race could help state primaries that never mattered before, in big media markets like California and New York.

Kai Ryssdal: It's not likely today's Super Tuesday primaries are going to nail anything down in the race for the GOP nomination. All indications are there's plenty of politicking yet to do, which means just as the fight isn't over -- neither is the fundraising.

From Washington, Sabri Ben-Achour has more.


Ben Patrick Johnson: In a world where candidates just won’t go away -- ever -- we bring you Prim-zilla: No end in sight!

Sabri Ben-Achour: That’s voiceover artist Ben Patrick Johnson, who I asked to give a Hollywood take on the Republican presidential primary. We might not get any clear answers today about the state of the race, but the candidates have said they'll keep campaigning, and that means their fundraisers will go into overdrive.

Why? Advertising.

Trevor Potter: I think it’s safe to say that among the happiest people in America today are the owners of radio and television stations in key Republican primary states.

Trevor Potter is a former chair of the Federal Election Commission.

Potter: The big driver of expenses at this point will be radio and television.

At this point, places like California, New York and Illinois don’t usually matter in Republican primaries. But they are huge media markets with big delegate hauls, so now they matter a lot. Plus, California is a winner-take-all state.

Mike Duhaime is a Republican strategist.

Mike Duhaime: Put it this way: You could probably run in Iowa a very robust television campaign statewide for $2 million to $3 million; in California, you’d be talking about $15 million to $20 million.

Duhaime says super PACs can raise that kind of money practically overnight.

Duhaime: There’s an old saying: Candidates never stop running for president, they just run out of money.

Not anymore, with so much outside advertising money. Steve Ansolabehere teaches politics at Harvard. He says donors might experience fatigue if the primary contest goes on too long.

Steve Ansolabehere: One fear for the Republicans is that they will have spent so much money attacking each other and campaigning each other that, especially the super PAC donors, they just get tapped out.

He says mudslinging in super PAC ads may not be what a candidate wants, and there’s the fear that mega-donors would have too much influence.

But for now, there’s just going to be a lot more ads.

Johnson: This election, vote super PAC for president.

So sit back and pop some popcorn, and maybe get out your checkbook.

I’m Sabri Ben-Achour for Marketplace, and I approved this message.

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.
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In at least on sense, the superpacs are stimulating the economy: most of the money comes from the wealthy, and most of it is spent on the non-wealthy (advertising geeks, etc.), it's a form of "trickle-down".

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