For all the howling from the left about how the Citizens United ruling would allow corporations to “buy” the election, the Washington Post reports that outside spending groups actually had little impact:
In the Senate, Republicans lost ground, pouring well over $100 million in outside money into a half-dozen seats that went to Democrats. In the presidential race, GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his allies spent more than twice as much as John McCain in 2008, but only took back red-leaning Indiana and North Carolina for their trouble.
Even in the House, where last-minute surges of cash would seem to stand a good chance of swinging races, GOP money groups struck out repeatedly, according to the Post analysis. In 26 of the most competitive House races, Democratic candidates and their allies were outspent in the final months of the race but pulled out a victory anyway. That compares to 11 competitive races where Republicans were outspent and won.
Outside money was the dog that barked but did not bite. Obama and other Democrats had long made dire predictions about the potential impact of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds on elections and created an entirely new class of wealthy political groups.
If anything, outside groups evened out the playing field, at least in the presidential race. Obama had a one-year head start over Romney in fundraising and spending. Romney was able to close the gap with outside groups, but it also meant that he had less control over his messaging. In the end, there was little difference, since both candidates reached the saturation point in swing state ads.
And as some of the Senate races showed, a deluge of ads and spending won’t make up for weak candidates:
The effect of all the conservative cash on Senate races was a resounding failure, with only deep-red Nebraska remaining clearly in the GOP column as of Wednesday morning. Crossroads, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other GOP-leaning groups spent at least $87 million targeting Democrats Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Tim Kaine (Virginia), Jon Tester (Montana) and Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), according to FEC data; all emerged victorious on Tuesday.
The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that close to $6 billion was spent on the total combined presidential and congressional elections, which is about as much as the federal government spends in a day, according to Paul Sherman.