Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) – If Mitt Romney loses to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina's Saturday primary, it won't be from a lack television ad spending.
Just in the last week, Romney's Republican presidential campaign dished out $550,000 to run campaign commercials in the Palmetto State, more than any of his three remaining rivals for the GOP nomination, according to estimates by Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), a company that tracks and estimates the costs of campaign ads running on the air.
It's a big day for politics in South Carolina Saturday on CNN. Tune in at 4 p.m. ET to see the candidates debate the issues from Thursday night's edge-of-your-seat debate then, at 6 p.m. ET, CNN's special live coverage of the South Carolina primary begins. See the results as they come in on on CNN, CNN.com/Live and the CNN mobile apps.
Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @politicalticker
And a Republican source familiar with ad buys in the state told CNN that the Romney campaign has spent $1.9 million total on the South Carolina airwaves, while a super PAC backing Romney has spent roughly $2.5 million.
Gingrich, meanwhile, spent just $640,000 total on television here.
"Winning Our Future," a super PAC supporting Gingrich, has spent $1.76 million – far less than the $3.4 million the group promised to shell out for a hard-edged ad attacking Romney's record at the private equity firm Bain Capital.
That controversial ad only ran for a few days.
The most recent week saw the heaviest spending. The CMAG numbers indicate that Rep. Ron Paul of Texas shelled out more than $460,000 to run spots in the last week, with former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania spending more than $376,000 to put up ads on TV.
Gingrich, the former House speaker, has surged in the most recent public opinion surveys, but his campaign's only spent $162,000 to run ads this week. That's about $60,000 less than Texas Gov. Rick Perry dished out to air commercials in the same time period. Perry dropped out of the race on Thursday and endorsed Gingrich.
But the ad spending by the campaigns is only half the story. The campaigns are getting a major boost from the independent super PACs that are supporting the candidates. And Romney seems to be the biggest recipient of the outside group spending.
The two super PACs backing Romney ("Restore Our Future" and "Citizens for a Working America") have spent more than $1.5 million over the past week to put up spots supporting the former Massachusetts governor and attacking his rivals.
That kind of money goes a long way in South Carolina's relatively inexpensive TV markets.
"Winning Our Future," the pro-Gingrich super PAC, spent $640,000 over the last week.
"Red White and Blue Fund," which backs Santorum, has shelled out nearly $370,000, while a super PAC supporting Paul has spent less than $90,000.
Television ads began airing in South Carolina even before Iowa's January 3 caucuses, and started to hit with full force during the week of the New Hampshire's January 10 primary, as the campaigns and the super PACs began to lay groundwork in the Palmetto State for what was then shaping up to be the decisive contest of the GOP race.
The first-in-the-south-primary state is experiencing an avalanche of ads that voters in Iowa and New Hampshire largely escaped.
"Iowa got heavy late with only some candidates and groups engaged and New Hampshire never really was heavily targeted," said Ken Goldstein, CMAG president and CNN's consultant on TV advertising.
"South Carolina is being targeted at absolutely the highest levels, not only are each of the candidates advertising, but each of their super PACs are advertising as well. It looks like what one would see if a Midwestern presidential battleground market in late October that also had a Senate race."
Santorum: Campaign is surging
Gingrich adviser predicts 4-6 point win in South Carolina
Santorum's South Carolina closer
Romney's lead shrinking in new national poll
Ron Paul looking ahead?
Didn't Justice Samuel Alito say Pacs are people too ?
It will be even worse in the general election. Multi-national and foreign companies are all joining forces in the bidding war to buy our government – through buying the Repub/tee-potty candidate and spreading endless lies through their foreign owned media conglomerates.
Americans will have a hard time holding on to their government and therefore our country.
The radical right with their "for-profit" masters destroyed our economy and now they are working hard on killing our Democracy.
This I told you long time ago, we are graduating to "Third World" status with Republicans and their Rigging, and spending money. Sue all these Super PACS. It is illegal to spend for Votes in Democratic Nation. Obama2012.
PS: PACS does not have and should not have same rights as Individuals in a court of Law. Because it hampers growth and awareness.
I noticed that there are no fives in that fan of bills. Have they banned the five dollar bill in S.C. because it has Lincoln's picture on it?
Romney can advertise FREE if he was smart enough to use the debates to get on his opponents instead of spending 99% of his time attacking Obama. Newt is doing it in the debates and will continue to do so and get standing ovations!!! The problem with Romney is the fact that he THOUGHT he was performing great in the debates but lately, he FUMBLED too many times!!!
Obama 2012 – the person the rest of America is voting for!
They're spending tons of money and influencing no one. Worst candidates ever.
Mittens is spending about $8 million per state, and still less than 30% like him.
$143 - tip money for Newt or Mitt - grocery money for several weeks for the working poor.
Put them on 7.50/hour for a month and see how they like it.
Let the propaganda wars commence. After all, money is speech, even if you don't know who said it... Why should a little thing like "considering the source" have any bearing on the message? Kind of makes you proud to be an American....