Ok look at what you just told me here. First you essentially deny that campaign contributors aren't getting a return on investment, and then you essentially say that ~1B of money towards negative adds was effectively wasted since there was no chance in him winning.
So clearly we need to revise the first amendment.
There is no contradiction, just nuance that I perhaps did not effectively convey. To get to 51%, you can either boost support for a candidate or reduce support for their rival.
Romney's campaign likely knew all of the following to be true:
- With 100% turnout, Romney would never be able to achieve 51%
- Effective negative ads increase turnout among the GOP base ("more important to vote so we can get that evil commie out of there!")
- Effective negative ads may decrease overall turnout ("they both suck, why vote?")
- Effective negative ads against an incumbent leader of a political party trickle down the ballot (you can turn Congressional elections by running against the President)
- Romney had a non-zero chance of winning (despite my hyperbole)
Sure, Romney could have won. Possibly. But his loss does not mean those who donated to the cause got nothing out of donating. They improved their relationship with the GOP, gained key Congressional seats, reduced support for Obama, reduced Obama's success rate in implementing his policies, probably moved Obama to the right, and so forth.
As for ~$1B, sure, it's a WAG. But I was talking about total negative ad spending on that election from the right, not just the Romney campaign. I haven't seen a good source on the data, and it is a reasonable estimate.
And yes, Democrats use negative ads for most of the same reasons. Though Democrats tend to benefit from increased turnout and suffer from decreased confidence in government, so their calculus is slightly different.