Biggest war chest not necessarily deciding primaries

Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum waves to supporters with his wife, Karen, February 7, 2012 in St. Charles, Mo. Santorum has raised the least amount of money of the remaining candidates, raising the question if money still matters in this election.

Rick Santorum has raised a little more than $2 million in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has raised more than 28 times that: $57 million.

According to Merle Black, who teaches politics at Emory University, "money helps, but money’s not everything. It’s how the money’s used."

In Florida, Romney spent a lot of that money on negative ads, going after the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. The super PAC that backs Romney also spent a lot of money in the Sunshine State.

That strategy may have backfired. "It may very well be that Romney’s got too much money, too many advisors," says Black. "And you know, if the voters don’t like it, then it doesn’t matter how much money they have."

Thomas Mann, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, says what does matter is electability, and the potential to beat President Obama, in November.

"That’s a factor that will come back to pose difficulties for [Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul] as the nomination contest proceeds," Mann points out. In addition to money, that's one thing that Romney does have going for him.

Jeremy Hobson: In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, former Senator Rick Santorum cleaned up last night. He won Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. Santorum is the candidate who has raised the least money of anyone in the race.

So for all the talk of super PACs, and big donors -- maybe it's not all about the money this year. Marketplace's David Gura reports.

David Gura: Mitt Romney’s war chest is big. It’s filled with more than $57 million. But all that money didn’t seem to make much of a difference yesterday.

Thomas Mann is with the Brookings Institution, and he says that may have to do with the fact that two of these states were caucus states.

Thomas Mann: Opportunities exist for candidates on low budgets to make some headway, and, uh, pull off some surprises.

Big, expensive ad buys weren’t as important.  In caucuses, candidates rely more on word-of-mouth.  Here’s Mann’s read on Santorum’s success:

Mann: Time invested in places like Iowa can pay dividends, but this is far from a serious campaign.

And when you talk about war chests, Santorum’s is really small, by comparison, with just over $2 million. The bad news for Santorum: starting March 20th, he’s staring at 24 primaries -- and no more caucuses.

About the author

David Gura is a senior reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.


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