Republican presidential candidates may tonight battle each other on CNN’s debate stage, but their supportive super PACs have been the dominant forces in the campaign’s television ad war this year.
That super PACs are sponsoring most early ads during the turbulent GOP primary represents a dramatic change from the 2012 election, when candidates’ own committees initially drove TV messaging.
Non-candidate groups, including super PACs and politically active nonprofits, have sponsored nearly nine in every 10 TV ads aired to date during the 2016 GOP presidential primary, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data provided by advertising tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.
Such groups face no limits on how much money they may raise or spend.
Candidates, super PACs and other special interest groups have combined to air about 11,000 ads in the GOP presidential race through Monday, Kantar Media/CMAG data indicates.
About 90 percent of these TV spots have targeted voters in either Iowa or New Hampshire — the states conducting the first two presidential nominating contests in February.
In the Democratic presidential primary, about 4,000 TV ads have already aired.
But in that race, the sponsor trend is reversed: Democratic Party frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s campaign accounts for about 90 percent of the TV ads, and a group supporting former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is the only super PAC so far involved in the race.