The heated battle for Iowa’s GOP presidential nomination is playing out on state’s airwaves.
Iowa’s networks are loaded with standard positive election ads paid for by the campaigns, peppered with pictures of the candidates with their families or hard at work looking very presidential.
What’s different this year is the emergence of ads paid for by super political action committees. Super PACs are sponsoring ads that do the dirty work of political mud-slinging so the candidates don’t have to.
Super PACs, which emerged in 2010 after the Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts of cash on campaigns, can’t coordinate messaging with campaigns, but they can air ads supporting or opposing a candidate.
Together, these groups and the campaigns have reportedly spent $8 million so far.
This spot paid for by Restore Our Future, a PAC aligned with Mitt Romney, never mentions Romney, but rather goes after Newt Gingrich’s work for Freddie Mac and his previous support for a cap-and-trade plan.
“You know what makes Barack Obama happy? Newt Gingrich’s baggage,” the ad states.
So far, Restore Our Future has spent $2.6 million since Dec. 15 attacking Gingrich through direct mail and television advertising, according to OpenSecrets.org, a group that tracks campaign finance data.
Make Us Great Again, a pro-Rick Perry super PAC, is going after Gingrich and Romney together in this ad, painting both candidates as closeted liberals.
Perry, on the other hand, has cut taxes and created jobs as governor of Texas, making him the “proven conservative.” It’s a theme Perry’s been playing up in person as he makes stops in Iowa this week. While his rivals have been tainted by politics, Perry argues he’s the proven conservative with outsider experience.
Meanwhile, ads paid for by the candidates are generally positive.
For instance, this one, which was paid for by the Romney campaign, is meant to play up Romney’s character.
“If you really want to know how a person will operate, look at how they’ve lived their life,” says Romney’s wife Ann. It’s an subtle jab at Romney’s rival, Newt Gingrich, who has been divorced twice and married three times.
Meanwhile, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who’s come from behind in the polls recently, is airing this ad about his career as an obstetrician.
“More than 4,000 babies delivered,” a woman’s voice says in the ad. “A man of faith, committed to protecting life.”
In Iowa, where social conservatives dominate the Republican party, voters scrutinize candidates’ abortion records, and Paul has some marks on his. Earlier this week, Personhood USA, a group trying to advance policies that give fertilized eggs the same rights American citizens, questioned Paul’s pro-life credibility.
For her part, Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign announced last week that she would be running television and radio ads in Iowa as well. They feature Iowans who’ve come out to meet Bachmann on her tour of the state’s 99 counties. Here’s one from Bachmann’s YouTube page.