Mann: Money talks in Republican presidential primaries

Republican Mitt Romney cemented his frontrunner status with his victory in the Florida presidential primary on Tuesday.

Story highlights

  • Republican Mitt Romney cements frontrunner status with victory in Florida presidential primary
  • Romney gets 46% of vote, compared to 32% for Newt Gingrich and 13% for Rick Santorum
  • Romney and his supporters collected nearly $90 million for his campaign by end of 2011, report says

Mitt Romney moved another big step closer to the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency this week: a very competent candidate with a stunning amount of cash and a court ruling that will keep the funds flowing.

"Napoleon said god is on the side of big battalions. Voters are usually on the side of big money," said CNN political analyst Paul Begala.

Romney got the support of 46 percent of Republican voters in the Florida primary election, the latest of the state-by-state votes leading to the contest against Barack Obama in November. Former lawmaker Newt Gingrich came in second with 32 percent. Two other candidates in the race were far behind.

How does campaign finance compare around the world?

Romney is a polished public speaker who ran for president four years ago and has spent the time since carefully preparing to do it again.

What exactly are Super PACs?
What exactly are Super PACs?

    JUST WATCHED

    What exactly are Super PACs?

MUST WATCH

What exactly are Super PACs? 03:17
PLAY VIDEO
Super PACs dominating politics
Super PACs dominating politics

    JUST WATCHED

    Super PACs dominating politics

MUST WATCH

Super PACs dominating politics 04:28
PLAY VIDEO
The power of Super PACs
The power of Super PACs

    JUST WATCHED

    The power of Super PACs

MUST WATCH

The power of Super PACs 02:46
PLAY VIDEO

He's also a multi-millionaire who seems to be a magnet for money. One report by Reuters news agency suggests he and his supporters collected nearly $90 million for his campaign by the end of 2011, with the campaign barely under way. By comparison, the Gingrich camp raised just under $15 million.

The U.S. is one of many democracies that have tried to keep money from buying elections. But this is the first presidential election to be affected by a relatively new ruling by the country's Supreme Court.

The court ruled in 2010 that organizations known as Super Political Action Committees, or Super-PACs, have a right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections as long as they stay independent of the candidates.

Hundreds of Super PACs have quickly sprung up, baking both Republicans and Democrats. In Florida, they reportedly spent even more than the presidential candidates did.

"When you have that much money washing around campaigns, there will be scandals," said Senator John McCain, who defeated Romney four years ago for the Republican presidential nomination but is backing him this time.

Federal officials predict that this year's elections to the White House, Congress and state offices could involve $11 billion in spending.

Even without any big scandals so far, that's an awful lot of uncontrolled cash.

      Election 2012

    • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage with first lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden after his victory speech on election night at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

      Obama makes history, again

      A black man is returning to the White House. Four years ago, it was a first, the breaking of a racial barrier. Tuesday night, it was history redux. And more.
    • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage after his victory speech at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

      Five things we learned

      The 2012 presidential election shattered spending records, further polarized a divided country and launched a thousand hashtags.
    • Demanding more from second term

      Even though voters indicated to pollsters that their financial situation is the same or worse than it was four years ago, they put their trust in the president.
    • US President Barack Obama addresses a crowd of supporters on stage on election night November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. President Barack Obama swept to re-election Tuesday, forging history again by transcending a slow economic recovery and the high unemployment which haunted his first term to beat Republican Mitt Romney. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

      Victorious Obama faces challenges

      The president faces a long and familiar set of challenges after riding a wave of support from moderates, women and minorities to victory.
    • GOP retains grip on House

      Republicans kept a lock on the U.S. House of Representatives, a crucial victory after the party failed to wrest away the presidency from Barack Obama and the Senate from the Democrats.