With Jeremy Roebuck:
By purchasing millions of television ad time in Pennsylvania, Mitt Romney hopes to end the Republican presidential race by smashing former Sen. Rick Santorum into oblivion in the April 24 primary.
The Romney campaign has already spent just under $1.9 million, according to media trackers in both parties. Sources say the buy will eventually reach $2.9 million.
On Monday, Romney’s campaign asked TV stations across the state to pull an attack ad scheduled to begin running as the first salvo of the blitz, in light of the serious illness of Santorum’s 3-year-old daughter.
Bella Santorum, who has the genetic disorder Trisomy 18, was hospitalized over the weekend, but her father’s campaign announced he will return to the trail on Tuesday with stops in Bedford, Carlisle and Lancaster.
In place of an ad that highlighted Santorum’s blowout loss to now-Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in 2006, the Romney campaign substituted a spot highlighting his fiscal record as governor of Massachusetts.
The 30-second spot features Romney delivering a stump speech at a campaign rally. Quotes like "proven fiscal conservative" and "boldest GOP agenda since Reagan '80" appear on the screen.
Romney proclaims that when he entered took office in 2003, Massachusetts faced a $3 billion deficit. It had a $2 billion rainy day fund when he left. All this was accomplished while cutting taxes and slashing spending, he said.
The former governor's claims are largely truthful, according to state budget records. Romney balanced state budgets year after year, as required by Massachusetts law. And while Romney did not raise income taxes during his tenure, business taxes rose by $140 million during his time in office.
He cut spending significantly during his first year in office, but expenditures rose thereafter and were offset by thousands of dollars in new fines and fees.
The attack ad, tailored for Pennsylvania viewers, plays up the former senator's landslide loiss.
Over news footage from election night, a narrator intones "We fired him as senator, why promote him to president?" The ad notes Santorum lost the state by in a "historically embarrassing" 17 percentage points that year. (It was the biggest loss for a Pennsylvania senator since at least 1946.)
In Allegheney County, his registered address, he fell to Casey by 30 points. Santorum lost Allegheny in 1994 and 2000 as well, when he was successful, but not by margins as large.
Santorum bested his rival in Butler County, where he spent his youth, by 10 points.