Mitt Romney stands on stage in a rainstorm with South Carolina Gov. Nikki… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )
The four remaining GOP presidential candidates and their supporters will have spent $10.4 million on broadcast television advertising in South Carolina by the time polls close there Saturday, swamping the state with finger-pointing spots.
And that total doesn't include the more than $2 million of combined air time purchased by Rick Perry and Make Us Great Again, a pro-Perry "super PAC," before the Texas governor pulled out of the race Thursday.
Back in 2008, when five Republicans were vying for the nomination, the television ad war totaled $6.9 million, according to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group. Another $6.6 million was spent on TV ads in the Democratic primary that year.
This year, the biggest spender in South Carolina has been Restore Our Future, a super PAC backing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, which bought up nearly $2.4 million worth of TV advertising through Saturday, according to a campaign source familiar with the details of the media buys. The organization plunked down $356,000 just in the last two days.
The group's heavyweight status underscores the central role being played this year by super PACs, a new breed of political players. The independent groups are allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money as long as they do not coordinate with the candidates or the party.
In all, super PACs dumped more than $5.4 million worth of TV ads into the South Carolina race, while the official candidates spent just under $5 million.
Not surprisingly, the candidate who bought the most spots was Romney, who has a substantially larger war chest than his rivals and is hoping to head off a rising Newt Gingrich. Romney's campaign bought close to $1.8 million in ad time, while Texas Rep. Ron Paul spent nearly $1.6 million. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum purchased a little more than $1 million worth of spots.
Gingrich spent just $612,000 on television ads – including $139,000 just in the last two days. But he was assisted by Winning Our Future, a pro-Gingrich super PAC, which bought up close to $1.6 million in ad time across the state.