The last-minute battle of the ad-bulge

posted at 10:01 am on October 26, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

It’s a strange and tricky business, these campaign-ad wars, and not merely because of the content of the advertising (in a desperate bid to cling to the diminishing gender gap, for instance, many of Team Obama’s ads are doing their darndest to convince the ladies that the singular most crucial issue of this election is, in fact, “women’s health” a.k.a. abortion and that conservatives want to “limit access” to contraception, or something).

Word on the street is that Team Romney has been holding back somewhat on their advertising buys and waiting for the opportune moment to unleash a deluge onto the airwaves, particularly in swing-states — a contrast from the Obama campaign’s modus operandi of buying and airing ads steadily all along. Seems like a risky strategy at its face, but the way things have played out, I’m wondering if it will turn out to be the masterstroke.

The debates revealed to America a capable, collected, and kind Mitt Romney that looked nothing like the Mitt Romney they’d been directed to hate and fear by the barrage of negative ads from Team O, and now, all of the momentum and optimism is on Mitt Romney’s side. If people aren’t already too weary of political ads, building on their new awareness of and receptiveness to the Republican candidate at this crucial juncture could be the key to bringing this thing home. Politico reports:

Romney and the Republican National Committee came into October sitting on $146 million, more than the $100 million Obama and the Democratic National Committee had. And as of Oct. 17, with three weeks to go, Romney and the RNC still had about $120 million in the bank.

… They say this was the Republican strategy all along: to wait as close to Election Day as possible to hit the airwaves in swing media markets with a barrage of Romney ads — a stark contrast to the Obama campaign’s strategy, which has been to spend heavily on advertising consistently, making many of the buys in advance when it could negotiate a better price and airtime. …

Another point for comforting Romney supporters is early voting trends. It was no doubt a key factor for Obama’s campaign in spending heavily on advertising in early October, but it wasn’t for the GOP because Democrats are more likely to vote early than Republicans.

The National Journal has more on the opening floodgates:

This week alone, Republican groups are combining to spend $59 million across 13 states. Obama and two other Democratic groups are spending a comparatively paltry $36 million across 10 states. Collectively, the Republican side has spent $115 million more than the Democratic side — $539 million versus $424 million, according to sources watching the advertising market.

Romney and his Republican allies are outspending Obama in every battleground state, the data show. In some states, the disparity is only minor; the GOP is spending just over $600,000 more in New Hampshire than Obama’s side. In other states, the Republican advantage runs into the seven figures — Republicans are outspending Democrats by more than $5 million in Florida, $4 million in Ohio, $3.3 million in Wisconsin, and $2 million each in Iowa and Virginia. …

All told, the two sides have spent almost $200 million on advertising in Ohio and Florida, and another $152 million on the Virginia airwaves. The breakneck pace of spending has only increased — this week, the two sides are spending a combined $17.8 million in Florida, $15.4 million in Virginia, and an incredible $21 million in Ohio.

The Obama campaign has been steadily advertising and purchasing their spots in advance, investing a lot of money and effort into constructing a particular image of Mitt Romney — that was all but shattered in practically a single debate. I detect the hint of the successful businessman in Team R’s strategy: If you’re willing to wait it out and maybe pay a little more, you can measure conditions closer to the main event, and now they have the resources on hand to potentially close this deal. We’ll see if it pays off.


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