November 9th, 2012
09:02 PM ET
10 years ago

Super PACs kept election close, says leader of pro-Romney group

(CNN) - Were it not for the spending of conservative groups and super PACs such as Restore Our Future, President Barack Obama's margin of victory over GOP nominee Mitt Romney would have been even larger in several key battleground states, the treasurer of Restore said on CNN Friday.

"Imagine the headline on this story if 350,000 different votes in four states had been different," said Charlie Spies, who worked for Romney in 2008 and was a co-founder of the super PAC this cycle. "Then you'd be saying that (GOP strategist) Karl Rove is an evil genius and that Republican big money had bought the election."

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Restore Our Future spent more than $100 million between the start of the year and mid-October, according to the group's final pre-election Federal Election Commission financial filing. It was primarily focused on television advertising supporting Romney’s White House bid.

American Crossroads, a separate conservative super PAC backed by Rove, spent more than $70 million in the same period, with its efforts mostly directed at House and Senate races, as well as the defeat of Obama. Rove held a conference call with top donors on Wednesday to discuss the efforts of American Crossroads.

Spies said on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" that he has "not had a single donor reach out to me or other co-founders of the group and say that they were upset about how we spent the money."

"I think everyone is disappointed because they thought our work was important and was something worth investing in," he said.

A report issued this week by the nonprofit political money-tracking group the Sunlight Foundation assessed the "return on investment" of a number of outside political groups: how many of the candidates they backed or opposed were elected or defeated. For Restore Our Future and the main pro-Obama super PAC, "their won/loss percentage will be obvious from the election results," the group wrote in a blog post.

Despite a spate of spending on both sides of the aisle, the presidency, House and Senate remained in the hands of the same parties as before the election.

Spies said "without us and the other outside groups, this would not have been a neck and neck election right through Election Day."

While Obama won in all the states CNN and other media outlets considered toss-ups between him and Romney, the margin in some was close. Obama won the key battleground of Ohio with approximately 103,000 votes out of 5.3 million cast. In Florida, where CNN has not yet projected a winner, Obama's edge as of Friday evening was 63,000 ballots out of 8.3 million cast.

But in the end, Obama ran a campaign in which "some of their tactics were very good," Spies said.

"They had a good ground game and they had very good targeting. And we as Republicans - royal 'We' - are going to have to figure out why that happened and try to match that, but that's probably a better function for political parties, and I think super PACs and c-4s are better at doing advertising," he added, citing other types of political groups.

As for Romney's post-election future?

"I think he can probably do whatever he wants to do, other than be president for the next four years," Spies said. "He's one of the great business leaders and I think he has a lot to say about the economy and I hope he keeps speaking about it."

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Rickfil

    Those 2 super PACs spent $170 million! That could of helped a lot of struggling families. Insulting! Go home and cry to yourself you greedy repubs!

    November 10, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  2. Pete

    Republicans are lying saying donors aren't upset because of the vast amounts of money spent and still losing to a more organized,intelligent ground game .They've been whinning to Rove and others because with their racist,dirty money most thought the WH was bought and paid for but that's their elitist ,arrogence again overshadowing their ignorence,just rich white men throwing their money into a hole of wasted dreams,how sad,maybe in 4 years if your republican party lasts that long!!

    November 10, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  3. Rick

    Does it bother anyone else that the whole premise of this article is that the amount of money spent and the "game" was what drove the election. What about the beliefs and platform of the candidates. Through out the election I cannot honestly say what either candidtate held as their goals other then loose allusion to improvement. This is not a slam against either party in particular, but I do find it troubling that Mr Spies is basically saying Super Pacs win the election.

    November 10, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  4. CBP

    Super Pacs made lots of voters angry. Their ads contained factual errors. They used the same premise in many ads and people in many states have stated their opposition to this type of ad.

    If the PACS had not allowed Mr. Romney to play "good cop" then Mr. Romney may have needed to show more emotion and more genuine caring for people. His debate tactics running up to the nomination was successful. He could not change that image. The PACs actually worked against the GOP nominee.

    No matter what happened Mr. Rove did not and could not be called an "evil genius because his star had dimmed long before this election.

    November 10, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  5. ronb

    That's one of the dumbest things I've every heard: "we didn't lose as bad as we would have if we hadn't blown nearly a $B". Great GOP. Just great. Now, you can take pride in being the best LOSERS out there. What did you think would happen with the union busting and voter suppression?? You need to call together the folks who advsed you to go down that road and beat the snot out of them. What's going to be the line in 2/4 yrs? "We didn't really mean it. Vote for us because we're all about everyone voting." ???? LOL. Your strategic planners suck!

    November 10, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  6. William

    If Romney would have won, the GOP would have said Karl Rove is a genius, and his smear machine would have been able to spend over 1 billion in the next election instead of the 350 million he spent in this election, and HE got NOTHING!

    November 10, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  7. n, tx

    Sour apples are always sour. Romney was not a good candidate and these Republican pac's lost big. U Republican were never close president Obama won the election left and right. And Florida will be won by president Obama.

    November 10, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  8. jim

    What a joke. The tracking polls showed that these PACs had little effect on the race despite the $100+mil spent.

    November 10, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  9. jimjimny

    The reality is that unless the message is appealing no amount of money can convinced the people.
    GMO food has had billions spent on it and it is only making inroads in Countries where the politicians can be bought or are US poodles such as Canada.
    If it sounds as unappealing as GMO food. dirty tar sand or right wing every man for himself politics no amount of $'s will persuade the general public.
    On top of that Romney is simply a unappealing bean counter, go getter make it up as you go businessman, not a model to spend billions on, get the right person and I think it could have been DIFFERENT GWB had personality and a wicked grin appealing to many.

    November 10, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
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