Gov. Rick Perry is spending more on TV ads in Iowa than any other GOP presidential candidate by a large margin.
Perry's campaign in December alone bought nearly $3 million in commercial time according to the Des Moines Register
A super political action committee run separately by Perry supporters spent another $1.33 million.
Yet the ads aren't yet moving Perry up dramatically in the polls.
Since mid-December, the Perry campaign has executed a dual assault to try and rise from single digits in Iowa polls — a ground attack with Perry traveling by bus from town to town and the air assault saturating TV viewers.
"If Washington's the problem, why trust a Congressman to fix it?" Perry asks in one of the ads trying to convince Iowa Repbulicans that he is the outsider they need in the White House.
"The Perry campaign has made some progress," said Jim Henson, director of polling for the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. "They seem to have made up a little bit of lost ground, they've stopped the bleeding. Whether the patient is actually healing is another question."
And Perry's done lots of bleeding as a presidential candidate, including his debate fumbles and his support of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants left him little choice to spend heavily on TV ads in Iowa.
"Anecdotal accounts suggest the immigration position that the Perry campaign took went over very poorly in Iowa, and he's been paying for it ever since," Henson said.
Make Us Proud Again, Perry's super PAC, also pays for commercials attacking Perry opponents. But Perry is only up a few points to 12 percent in poll averages in Iowa.
But Henson says the days leading up to the caucus are when commercials — especially negative ads — are most effective. "Even though people perhaps wince and want to look away, it has an impact — they internalize the information," he said."
Political ads, however, have limited impact — especially when a candidate's image becomes framed early because of unscripted events, as Perry knows.
"At the end of the day, candidate performance matters enormously," Henson said.