Since then, progressive donors such as Soros have abandoned high-dollar campaign ads in favor of building a progressive infrastructure focused on grass-roots organizing, Democrats say. That shift is reflected in the recent Soros contributions of $1 million apiece to America Votes, an umbrella group for progressive activists, and to American Bridge 21st Century, which does no advertising.
Some Democratic organizers argue that their super PAC fundraising deficit will be offset by their edge in organizing grass-roots and get-out-the vote activities with the help of labor unions and other progressive allies. But Romney and GOP candidates will also get grass-roots help from deep-pocketed groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association.
And that does little to help super PACs such as Priorities USA Action, which has always focused on the air war. As they wait on big donors, Democratic super PACs have set out to spend the money they have as strategically as possible.
Priorities USA Action has teamed up with the Service Employees International Union on anti-Romney ads in Florida and Nevada. The super PAC also partnered with the League of Conservation Voters recently on a $1 million ad buy targeting Romney. The group also joined with the United Auto Workers on an ad in Michigan.
“We decided early that the best way to leverage our influence in this election was to work with partners that shared our goals,” said Bill Burton, a senior strategist for Priorities USA Action and former Obama administration aide.
At House Majority PAC, organizers have launched a Project California campaign aimed at persuading donors in the Golden State to back a slate of at least nine House Democrats who they argue enjoy unusually good prospects and could help flip the House their way.
“This year is a tremendous opportunity for Democrats to pick up seats and for Democratic donors to engage in competitive races in their own backyard,” said Andy Stone, communications director for House Majority PAC. He said the super PAC is “definitely considering” launching similar campaigns in other states.
Pro-Democrat super PACs and other progressive outside groups will also specifically target Latinos with outreach and ads, said Steve Phillips, chairman of PAC +, which has set out to spend as much as $10 million on targeting Hispanic voters in states such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas.
“There will be geographically and demographically targeted independent efforts,” Phillips said, “which I would argue are going to be in the aggregate as effective as all the indiscriminate spending that some of these super PACs do.”