The 2016 presidential aspirants and outside groups have already crossed the $1 billion fundraising mark collectively this campaign, blowing by previous election cycles.
At this point in 2012, candidates had collectively raised about $314 million, according to data compiled by the Campaign Finance Institute. In 2008, the last time an incumbent president was approaching the end of his second term, candidates had collectively raised about $812 million.
For Donald Trump, who suggested last August that he might be willing to spend up to $1 billion on his campaign, the new data suggests he could end up needing to do so.
Even with the glut of super PAC spending, however, the actual effect of these outside groups on the primary campaign is still an open question at this point, analysts said.
“I think the jury’s still out on that,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “A super PAC doesn’t work unless you have a candidate and a message too.”
“It almost doesn’t matter if I give you a nuclear weapon and you’ve got the French army behind it,” said Mr. O’Connell.
Mr. O’Connell also pointed out that Mr. Trump, the Republican front-runner, has managed to command unprecedented free media this cycle.
“I think it’s hard to tell what the future is with super PACs because we had this snowplow known as Donald Trump, who had a hundred percent name ID and a really great message,” Mr. O’Connell said. “Now, what if I gave that guy a super PAC? My God, I can see scorched earth from here to Alaska.”