South Carolina Primary 2012: Record $11.3 Million Spent On TV Ads

WASHINGTON -- The Republican presidential candidates and the outside groups backing them have spent $11.3 million on TV ads in South Carolina, a record amount in the Palmetto State's primary contest.

In Columbia, average viewers are likely to see a political ad 182 times before they vote on Jan. 21, according to an analysis by The State. Seventy-five percent of the money was spent on ads that will air during this week and next.

On Friday, South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly told The Huffington Post he had heard that many stations were running out of airtime due to all the political ads.

"I've had several people in local media outlets here tell me, there is no more ad space to be bought," he said. "It's all been reserved through the 21st."

Other stations still have airtime left, despite the unprecedented amount spent on ads this year.

"We're still taking buys," Octavia Walker, assistant to the general manager at ABC News 4 in Charleston, S.C., told The Huffington Post.

WIS-TV in Columbia has made more money during this GOP primary season on political ads than it did in 2008, when there were both Republican and Democratic primaries.

"The last 10 days have just been a zoo," Scott Sanders, the station's general manager, told The State. "The candidates themselves this year spent 25 percent less than 2008, but those super PACs, which are brand new and everyone has them -- all this extra money is raising levels above what it was in 2008."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has spent the most, at $3.7 million, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry ($2.5 million), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ($2 million), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) ($1.3 million), former Sen. Rick Santorum ($1.5 million) and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman ($50,400). Comedian Stephen Colbert, who has formed an exploratory committee in advance of a possible run for "President of the United States of South Carolina," has spent $7,600 in the state.

Those figures include spending by super PACs supporting the candidates and Colbert. The candidates themselves have spent $3.84 million, while super PACs have spent $7.3 million. Every candidate except Huntsman has purchased TV ads in all of South Carolina’s four major media markets.

South Carolina is known for its rough-and-tumble politics, with candidates being accused of adultery and fathering illegitimate children.

This year, Romney is getting hit on his record at private equity firm Bain Capital and on his stance on abortion, while Gingrich is facing ads reminding voters of his personal "baggage."

Despite the dueling attack ads, Connelly said that so far, 2012 has been a walk in the park.

"Compared to years past, I think it's kind of tame, honestly," he said. "Typical primary kind of layout. I do think Gov. Romney's got a head of steam, but I'm certain some of the other campaigns have very good ground games that shouldn't be discounted.

"You always wonder what negative TV does. You saw it move the needle in Iowa and New Hampshire, so by the weekend, we should know if anybody really gets hit from something like that."

Mollie Reilly contributed reporting.