Conservative Super PACs: Not Dead Yet

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 16 2013 11:45 AM

Conservative Super PACs: Not Dead Yet

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Watch out, Kay Hagan. They're coming for ya.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Kyle Trygstad walks through the big red-state Senate races of 2014 and develops beautiful charts of all the spending so far. The trend should be obvious as you thumb through the numbers. In every race, outside groups on the right are outspending Democrats/outside groups on the left. In North Carolina the GOP groups have spent $3.1 million more than Democrats. In Kentucky pro-Mitch McConnell groups have spent $5,550,000; Democrats, in the one marquee race they're sort of optimistic about, have spent $1.2 million. And it's like that across the states.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

This is notable because the most hyped conservative spending projects of 2012 were—how to be kind about this?—face-in-the-mud failure factories. Karl Rove's advocacy for American Crossroads GPS ended with him losing most of his credibility; his project to raise early money to beat Tea Party candidates in primaries was a flop. Americans for Prosperity, chaired by David Koch, reshuffled and laid off staff after it failed to win its 2012 targets.

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But hey—AFP, which does not have to report the size of IEs, has been on the air in North Carolina for months.

An ad like that represents a huge insight, a lesson of the 2012 loss. AFP blew stacks on stacks that year, running ads that attacked Obama over the Solyndra scandal (remember that?), and generally obsessing over messages that were orthogonal to the main GOP message. No longer: Now it's all Obamacare all the time. That's exactly what Republican leaders want the election to be about. See this, the last expenditure from the Kentuckians for Strong Leadership PAC.

Everyone, grab your hymnals! Sing this song for 11 more months.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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