Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and pro-Newt Gingrich SuperPAC Winning Our Future are battling it out through online ads leading up to Saturday's South Carolina primary. And, along with Winning Our Future - which spent more than $281,000 since January 10 on email and web advertising - Paul is sticking with his negative tone.
"See why Rick Santorum is a conservative FRAUD," scream ads from the Ron Paul camp seen on South Carolina's TheState.com.
Since before the New Hampshire primary, Ron Paul's campaign has gone negative online in the hopes of siphoning Republican primary votes away from Gingrich and Santorum. Heading into New Hampshire, he extended the "Serial Hypocrite" message he'd used against Gingrich, slapping the same label on Santorum.
Online ad costs were on the rise in South Carolina earlier this week, according to Vincent Harris, who had been leading Rick Perry's digital team. Perry ended his bid for the Republican nomination Thursday, putting his weight behind Gingrich. It may come as little surprise that Perry had not appeared to be doing much web advertising in South Carolina this week.
As for former House Speaker Gingrich, he's backed up in South Carolina by ad muscle from Winning Our Future. In display ads spotted on TheState and Charleston news site Live5News.com, the independent expenditure group paints Romney as flip-flopper who once supported abortion rights. "Think you know Mitt? Think again," states the video featured on the NewtforLife.com ad landing page.
The video includes footage of Romney speaking during a Massachusetts gubernatorial debate, and prompts people to visit WinningOurFuture.com. An animated video on that site pokes fun at Romney, implying his stances on abortion rights, gun control, and healthcare reform are too similar to President Barack Obama's to make him a true contrast to Obama in the general election.
Since January 10, Winning Our Future has spent over $281,000 on email and online advertising opposing Romney. Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney group that has spent millions on TV ads and direct mail to attack Gingrich, has done little online besides sending emails supporting Romney.
Romney's campaign, however, has been a big spender online, and that hasn't changed pre-South Carolina. In keeping with the campaign's strategy of running TV spots simultaneously through online video ads, the Romney team has placed pre-roll video ads on TheState. The ad, also seen on TV, responds to criticism of his career with Bain Capital, a favorite theme of Gingrich's. The ad mentions that while Romney was at Bain, the company helped businesses such as Staples, and notes, "We expected Obama to put free markets on trial."
Display ads from Romney spotted on TheState, Live5News, and GreenvilleOnline.com suggest, "We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in." The ads link to a page on his site featuring campaign events in South Carolina.
Rick Santorum's campaign, and other groups could also be running online ads targeted geographically, and therefore not viewable from ClickZ's New York offices.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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