03/15/2012 12:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Mitt Romney, Super PAC Spent Big For Fewer Votes In Alabama, Mississippi

WASHINGTON -- On Tuesday Rick Santorum surprised many by defying the polls and winning the two primary contests in Alabama and Mississippi. This happened despite his being radically outspent in both races, particularly on television ads by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Thanks to stronger fundraising by Romney's campaign and Restore Our Future, Romney forces invested the most of any candidates' in broadcast advertising buys in both states. But Romney came out of both contests in third place. This continues Romney's trend of spending vastly more on television advertising -- the biggest expense of presidential campaign -- per vote and per delegate than any of the other remaining candidates.

Romney and the super PAC supporting his candidacy wound up spending $9.07 on television ads for each vote he picked up in Alabama and Mississippi. This compares with the wildly lower $1.93 spent on ads in both states by Santorum and the super PAC backing him. Gingrich and the super PAC supporting him spent $3.17 per vote in the two Southern states.

While Southern Republicans may have already been predisposed to vote for a candidate other than Romney, his spending may have brought more votes and delegates than if he and his super PAC had spent less in these states, according to Dartmouth University assistant professor Brendan Nyhan. "When you're thinking about the effect of money, you have to think about how well Romney would have done without all that money on his side," Nyhan said. "He might be doing a lot worse if he didn't have that money advantage."

Most of the television advertising for all three candidates came not from their campaigns but from the super PACs supporting their bids. The candidate super PACs -- ostensibly independent political committees that can raise money without limits -- have outspent the candidates on television advertising throughout the GOP primary campaign. In Alabama and Mississippi, the super PACs accounted for 86 percent of all spending, according to data reported by NBC First Read, and 91 percent of all broadcast television ads, according to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group.

When one calculates the amount spent on television ads per delegate, Romney's reliance on big spending and Santorum's highly successful shoestring campaign stand out again. The former Massachusetts governor and the Romney super PAC combined to spend $104,260 per delegate; the former Pennsylvania senator and the Santorum super PAC spent just $19,064 per delegate won in Alabama and Mississippi.