If Mitt Romney goes on to win today’s Florida primary, pundits are ready with an explanation: He’s outspent Gingrich by about 5-1 on the Florida airwaves, an estimated $15.4 million in ads versus $3.4 million. While there’s always room to question the conventional wisdom — Romney scored a couple of good debate performances, and Gingrich’s plans for a moon colony annoyed fiscal conservatives — the spending differential is glaring. When Romney arrived in Florida a bit more than a week ago, he was trailing Gingrich by 9 points in polls; now he’s up by 12. Could he have come back that quickly without a big spending advantage? Almost certainly not.
That’s particularly true in Florida, a sprawling state where voters rely on the airwaves for virtually all their information about candidates. There’s no Sunshine State equivalent of the retail campaigning that goes on in Iowa and New Hampshire, which means not only that most Floridians don’t have a chance to see the candidates in person, but that they have less incentive to study the race closely. Other than news coverage and debates, ads provide most of the information.