WASHINGTON _ If attracting the attention _ and the dollars _ of the super PAC backing Mitt Romney is any indication of clout in the 2012 presidential campaign, Rick Santorum notched a new distinction this week as he became the candidate who had suffered the largest barrage of negative spending by the PAC.
The pro-Romney Restore Our Future super PAC has been the powerhouse in the presidential race, spending more than $39 million since early December to oppose Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich had been the key target in December and January, but that trend shifted suddenly in early February as Gingrich failed to build on his victory in South Carolina and Santorum started picking up primary victories.
As of this week, Restore Our Future has now spent more than $20 million to oppose Santorum, compared with $18.7 million to oppose Gingrich.
Still, Gingrich remains the candidate who has drawn the most super PAC money when spending for and against a candidate is combined.
Super PACs have spent more than $12 million to support Gingrich and more than $7 million to support Santorum.
Romney has drawn the least amount of spending in support of his candidacy _ just over $2 million.
(Geiger reported from Washington, Moore from Los Angeles.)