Romney in 2012 vs. 2008: Thriftier With Cash, and Quicker to Bash

OK, now watch this ad, from the 2012 primary, in which Romney isn't mentioned at all. Instead, it's just a clip of a 1997 newscast in which Tom Brokaw reports that lawmakers had found Newt Gingrich "guilty of ethics violations" and that "tonight he has on his own record the judgment of his peers, Democrat and Republican alike." This ad ran before the Florida primary, which Romney won decisively — and which Gingrich still says he lost because of an onslaught of negative ads against him.

Romney had no need in 2012 to reintroduce himself. Most Republican primary voters already knew who he was, and they either liked him or didn't. Those who didn't would rotate their preferred candidate through the list of the conservatives running against Romney, and the negative ads aimed at them helped Romney stay atop the field for the entire race.

The Dream Team

Chuck Norris might beat Marco Rubio in a fistfight, but not in a contest of whose endorsement matters more in a Republican primary.

Romney's team has compulsively organized endorsement rollouts throughout the 2012 campaign, capping them this week with a conservative trifecta: George H.W. Bush, tea party poster boy Marco Rubio and budget god Paul Ryan. Add them to an already impressive establishment list of supporters that includes the indomitable Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Tom Ridge, Bob Dole, Tim Pawlenty, Jan Brewer and John McCain.

Where was the establishment in 2008? Lining up behind McCain, for the most part. It may seem odd now, but Romney was perceived as a conservative alternative to McCain four years ago, and a host of talk-radio voices like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham backed Romney as the non-McCain.

Sound familiar?

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's ... an Outside Spending Group Allowed to Raise Unlimited Amounts of Money

Ah, super PACs. Is there anything they can't do?

Romney's super PAC, Restore Our Future, has already spent $40 million in the primary campaign, mostly on negative ads to fend off challenges by Gingrich and Santorum. Its competition is a joke — Gingrich's similar-sounding super PAC, Winning Our Future, has spent $16 million, and Santorum's has shelled out $7 million.

Gingrich's super PAC has basically one benefactor, the billionaire casino machine Sheldon Adelson, and Santorum is helped by the outdated reference-dropping hedge-fund investor Foster Friess. Romney has a bunch of pals giving money, including a handful of private-equity and Wall Street types, and the Texas home builder Bob Perry, who famously funded the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" campaign that helped sink John Kerry's presidential bid in 2004.

Unfortunately for Romney in 2008, super PACs hadn't been born yet, which might have been why the candidate spent so much of his own money then. Restore Our Future, which is run by Romney's close associates but is legally forbidden from "coordinating" with the campaign on where to buy ads and how much to spend on them, can make swiftboatloads of commercials that disparage Romney's opponents, and Romney never has to own up to them because he technically isn't responsible for them.

Romney knows the rules. "My goodness, if we coordinate in any way whatsoever, we go to the big house," he said in December.

Yeah, the White House! No, seriously, that would be illegal.

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