Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Palmetto State Unable to Escape Record Barrage of Political Ads

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Palmetto State Unable to Escape Record Barrage of Political Ads

Article excerpt

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- They have been inescapable: growling baritone announcers and grainy images of sneering candidates. Mitt Romney is a corporate raider. Newt Gingrich's politics are desperate and disgusting.

Anyone who happened to be near a working television in South Carolina this weekend was exposed to one of the most concentrated and expensive barrages of political advertising that this state has experienced. With the traditional efforts of candidates now multiplied by the presence of the well-financed super-PACs supporting them, political operatives furiously outbid and outmaneuvered each other in a last-minute scramble to buy up their share of the airwaves between now and the primary Saturday and make sure their messages do not get drowned out by those of their rivals.

Want to advertise on "60 Minutes," as Mr. Romney did Sunday? His campaign had to get WLTX, the CBS station in Columbia, to bump a super-PAC that was actually running ads supporting him. It agreed to pay $3,000 for a 30-second spot -- $100 a second, almost double the usual rate.

Rick Santorum, running as a family values social conservative, put his campaign's money into the very Hollywood studios he so often derides, booking time on NBC during the Golden Globe awards and "30 Rock."

And super-PACs, eager to be seen during the National Football League playoff game Saturday featuring the Denver Broncos' Tim Tebow, bought up slots that were spoken for weeks ago, paying premiums to knock advertisers like Hardee's, Jeep and the Ford Motor Company to later times.

"It's like carpet-bombing," said Scott Sanders, general sales manager for WIS, the NBC station in Columbia. "They're waiting until the last two weeks to reach everyone they can. He who shouts the loudest last might win."

The arms race at television stations across South Carolina is the most vivid manifestation yet of the influx of outside money into U.S. politics this election cycle. Thanks to a Supreme Court decision that paved the way for the creation of the so-called super- PACs -- groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money advocating for a candidate as long as they do not coordinate with the campaign -- the messaging wars are growing to new levels of intensity.

Five Republican presidential candidates are advertising on television in South Carolina. …

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