Mitt Romney has stepped up what is already the costliest early advertising push in a presidential campaign, an effort that his advisers and several media experts credit with helping vault him to the lead in the Republican field in some recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has spent some $4 million on television advertising since February, focusing mostly on Iowa and New Hampshire, crucial early voting states, according to industry estimates and tracking by an opposing campaign. That heavy spending comes even though the first nominating contests are at least six months away.
He increased his advertising in a huge way last month, spending more than $2 million, much of it on national cable advertisements. This month, he added a run of television commercials in South Carolina, another early primary. His aggressiveness this early over the airwaves stands in contrast to his Republican competitors, who have yet to broadcast any television spots.
I think this is smart politics on Romney’s part, but it is worth noting that what he’s doing here, essentially, is paying to raise his poll numbers. In other words, he’s spending a lot of money simply trying to make himself credible in the eyes of the pundit class and other Republicans. Now, buying Iowa support is a time-honored tradition — it’s really the key to the caucus system — but what Romney is doing, it appears, is buying the Ames straw poll, not even the caucus as yet. Again, it’s smart, but stories like this are going to help his rivals by giving everybody the sense that he’s simply spending his way into good numbers and possibly constructing an artificial support bubble for himself.