The primary contest began in 2011 with a fairly wide field. Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, had been preparing to run for president ever since the 2008 election, and the media narrative became: "Who will be the anti-Romney candidate?" Several candidates rose in the polls throughout the year. However, the field was down to four candidates by February 2012: Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, former Governor Romney and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. It is the first presidential primary to be affected by a Supreme Court ruling that allowed unlimited independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates through super PACs.
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