Eight contests and one month into the GOP primary season, and the race has already been one of the most volatile, unpredictable and expensive in history.
This is the first presidential campaign since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that gave rise to super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to fight for or against specific candidates, as long as they don't coordinate with the campaigns. They have changed the game when it comes to political advertising.
Super PACs have poured millions into early primary and caucus states, significantly outspending the campaigns they support.
Three candidates have dropped out in the past five weeks, eight states have made their GOP presidential selection and three have emerged victorious.
Here's a rundown -- by the numbers -- of how it has gone down:
|Margin of Victory|
Money and momentum met patience and persistence in Iowa when well-funded Mitt Romney and 99-county, bus-touring Rick Santorum went head-to-head in the first in the nation caucus. The result was the closest election in Iowa caucus history, with Santorum eventually edging Romney by a mere 34 votes, a margin of victory of about 0.03 percent. Ron Paul took third with 21 percent of the votes, falling 4 percentage points behind Santorum and Romney. Gingrich fell to fourth with 13 percent.
The next two primaries saw double-digit margins between the first- and second-place winners. Romney won New Hampshire by 16 points, capturing 39 percent of the votes, compared with Paul's 23 percent. Gingrich and Santorum tied for fifth place behind Huntsman with 9 percent.
Gingrich stole the show in South Carolina with a late-blooming 13-point upset over Romney. Gingrich took 41 percent of the votes, compared with Romney's 28 percent. Both Santorum and Paul fell into the teens.
But Florida and Nevada were Romney's game and the former Massachusetts governor trampled his four opponents, beating Gingrich by 14.5 percent in Florida and 29 percent in Nevada.
The campaign that many thought was dead emerged from the ashes in Tuesday's three contests, with Santorum scoring big victories. The former Pennsylvania senator dominated over second-place finisher Ron Paul in Minnesota by 18 points, eclipsed Romney in Colorado by 15 points and in the Missouri "beauty contest" where no delegates were awarded, Santorum trumped Romney by 20 points.
|Spending Per State|
As the primary season progresses, the shoe-leather campaigning and multimillion-dollar ad blitzes are decreasing. Candidates such as Rick Santorum, who spent more than a month knocking on doors across Iowa, are now making two-day whirlwind appearances at key venues on the days leading up to a primary or caucus.
Out of the eight contests so far this primary season, the GOP candidates combined spent the most in South Carolina. More than $14.6 million were spent almost entirely on attack ads as the media war between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney reached a fever pitch.
That sizable spending trend continued on to Florida where candidates and their supporting super PACs spent nearly the same amount -- $14.5 million – to attract three times as many voters.
Spending dropped dramatically as January's vitriolic ad war morphed into February's small-state caucus fest. Four states went to the polls in the first week of February, but the four remaining candidates combined have spent, so far, less than a million dollars in every February contest combined.
Romney dominated in the Nevada caucus, but was also the only candidate to dump more than $50,000 on advertising in the state. The Minnesota,-Missouri-Colorado trifecta Feb. 7 sucked less than $400,000 out of the Republican candidates and their super PACs.
With Romney's big losses and Santorum's substantial victories in the most recent round of contests, expect those spending numbers to jump again as the Republicans battle it out in the February 28 Arizona and Michigan primaries, which will set the tone going into Super Tuesday March 6.
|Spending Per Candidate|
Mitt Romney and Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting him, are blowing the other four GOP candidates out of the water in the money game.
The pro-Romney super PAC outspent the other four candidates' supporting super PACs combined by 10 to 1 in Florida, 4 to 1 in Nevada and matched all the spending of his opponents in Minnesota. Restore Our Future opted not to advertise in Colorado and Missouri.
Newt Gingrich and the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future also posted big spending totals in Florida, pouring a combined $500,000 in the Sunshine State, primarily on television ads attacking Romney.
Updated and accurate information on each candidate's campaign spending is not yet available.
|Spending Per Voter|
With the exception of South Carolina, where Romney and Gingrich launched an all-out costly ad war, spending per voter has decreased as the primary race progresses.
In Iowa, where 34 votes separated first and second place, candidates and their super PACs doled out more than $10 million to woo the first-in-the-nation state's 122,244 caucus-goers. That's about $85 per voter, nearly five times as much they spent per voter in New Hampshire, which went to the polls one week after Iowa.
In Missouri, on the other hand, which held its "beauty contest" primary where no delegates were awarded Tuesday, the candidates and super PACs spent a mere 20 cents per voter. Compare that to South Carolina, where the White House hopefuls dumped $24 for every one of the state's 600,000 voters during the month of January.
Candidates and super PACs spent nearly the same amount in Florida as in South Carolina, but with three times as many voters in the Sunshine State, only about $8.50 was spent per voter, 50 cents more than they spent per Nevada voter.