Candidates in Glass Houses

ORLANDO, FLORIDA—No one—save perhaps journalists—is more disappointed than Democrats by Newt Gingrich's poor Florida finish. The former House speaker's continued relevance and attacks on Mitt Romney has provided great news fodder.

As Romney's path to the nomination becomes easier by the day, Democrats have gone searching for new strategies to paint the Republican front-runner as a weaker candidate than he actually is. Their newest strategy is to suggest that Romney's success in Florida is nothing more than a monetary imbalance that he can't carry through to the general election. “Mitt Romney’s victory tonight in the Florida GOP primary comes as no surprise—Romney and his Super PAC outspent his nearest opponent by running 13,000 ads to Newt Gingrich's 200, carpet-bombing the airwaves with negative ads," Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote in a press release. "In fact, Romney’s campaign has already spent more on negative ads than John McCain did during his entire presidential run."

There is certainly a fair bit of truth to that argument. According to numbers attained by Talking Points Memo, Romney and the super PAC Restore Our Future invested almost $15.3 million for their "not officially coordinated" nuclear assault against Gingrich in Florida, compared to just $3.4 million by the former speaker and his affiliated PAC.

The only problem for the Democrats' reasoning is that the same logic might carry through to the general election. Barack Obama's re-elect campaign has proved to be a fundraising juggernaut, collecting $40 million during the last quarter according to campaign-finance disclosures released Tuesday. But pro-Democratic super PACs have struggled in comparison to their Republican counterparts. The four main liberal super PACs reported total receipts of $19 million for all of 2011. American Crossroads—the primary Republican money machine founded by Karl Rove—drew a total of $51 million between their super PAC and nonprofit. Restore Our Future posted just shy of $18 million in the second half of 2010 alone.

Both sides will collect unprecedented amounts of money for the 2012 election, negating some of these slight edges in money. It could very well be a repeat of 2008, where Obama had more money than he knew what to do with and threw money around freely on video-game advertisements and a vanity 30-minute infomercial.

But Democrats should be wary about placing too much emphasis on the pro-Romney group's fundraising edge over his opponent; the exact same pattern is on track to repeat itself in the general election.