Two-thirds of the money from the main group advancing a presidential bid for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. came from the candidate’s father, disclosures filed Tuesday showed.
A super PAC called Our Destiny emerged as the major spender on ads in primary states advocating Mr. Huntsman because the candidate’s campaign itself had trouble attracting donors. New regulations allowing outside groups to accept unlimited contributions from any source and spend them on political races allowed Mr. Huntsman to mount a long-shot bid for the presidency despite polling in the low single digits, skirting the traditional path of raising grass-roots support from voters and, in turn, donations to fuel future campaigning as a bid gains traction.
It was a test of whether money could be used to prolong the winnowing process in primaries, jump-starting a groundswell of support that was not taking place organically. The extended life that it provided also banked, perhaps, on increasing dissatisfaction with the more prominent candidates - it provided Mr. Huntsman with the resources to wait a few extra weeks for other Republican candidates to slip up.
Candidates always have been allowed to dip into personal savings to finance their own campaigns - think Ross Perot - but before 2010, the situation with Mr. Huntsman’s wealthy father would not have been allowed.
Either way, money is seldom enough to make up for genuine voter enthusiasm on its own. That seemed to be the case for Mr. Huntsman, who dropped out of the race last month. There was some evidence of an uptick in polling corresponding with the super PAC’s ads, but both the candidate and his father seemed unwilling to press the bid further.
Mr. Huntsman’s father made a calculated decision, it would seem - the super PAC spent $50,000 on polling to gauge his prospects, an unusual function for outlets that have so far existed largely to run television ads. The PAC spent $2.3 million on advertising, with all of it positive, unlike the attacks between super PACs supporting former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Of course, it is easier for a second-tier candidate to avoid going on the attack: There’s no guarantee any voter dissuaded from voting for one of the other candidates would have gravitated toward Mr. Huntsman rather than another rival.
• Luke Rosiak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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