President Obama, Mitt Romney, and their partisan allies have dumped more than half a billion dollars on television advertising this cycle, putting the two sides on pace to easily eclipse the $1 billion mark before Election Day, according to sources who track the television-advertising market.
To put that in perspective: If the two sides had pooled their resources, they could have purchased two new Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets and had more than $100 million left over. They could have purchased a one-half share in the Cleveland Browns football team, which sold last month for $1 billion. They could have purchased 144.5 million gallons of gasoline at an average price of $3.70 per gallon, or purchased 24,257 Toyota Camrys--almost as many as were sold in the entire country last month.
Instead, that money has gone to a barrage of attack advertisements, alternately depicting Obama as willfully making the economy worse and Romney as the misanthropic businessman out to line his own pocket.
Obama's campaign has spent the most, more than $225 million on advertising in key battleground states. While Romney's campaign lags far behind, at just $68 million spent so far, a trio of outside organizations--American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS, and Americans for Prosperity--have combined to purchase another $145 million in television spots. All told, Romney and his allies have now outspent Obama and his allies by nearly $20 million.
This week alone, Romney and Republican outside groups are outspending Obama and Democrats by a close to 3-1 margin. Republicans are spending $27.1 million, while Democrats put only $10.6 million into television spots. Republicans are spending twice as much as Obama's team in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia; three times as much in North Carolina; and almost eight times as much in Pennsylvania, where Obama has curtailed his television spending and is focusing on radio spots in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets.
Obama's campaign is spending $9.45 million on ads this week, less than they have spent in two previous weeks. Romney's campaign, which has slowly ramped up spending as his coffers recover from a drawn-out, expensive primary, is doling out $7.8 million. And Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super PAC, is spending more than $10 million on advertising this week alone.
Underscoring Democrats' money problems, even the Republican National Committee--which was mired in more than $20 million in debt just last year--is spending more this week than Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super PAC. The RNC has spent $2 million on advertising in eight states, while Priorities spent almost $1.2 million across five states between August 14 and August 20.
Republicans have outspent Democrats in all but three swing states. Republican groups hold the largest advantages in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, three reliably Democratic states Republicans are trying to put into play.
Democrats, meanwhile, have spending advantages in three critical swing states that are crucial to Romney's path to 270 electoral votes--Colorado, New Hampshire, and Ohio.
Voters in Ohio, where Democrats have spent $57.3 million compared with $46.1 million from Republicans, have seen more than $103 million in paid advertising. Florida has seen a nearly identical amount of advertising, though Republicans have outspent Democrats by a $53.7 million to $49.6 million margin in that state.
Virginia comes in third on the spending charts, with more than $75 million dished out in the commonwealth so far. Voters in North Carolina have seen $56 million in TV ads, while the two sides have spent a combined $40 million in both Colorado and Iowa.
The two sides are spending at least a combined $2 million in the Denver, Tampa, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C., media markets, saturation-level spending that virtually guarantees local businesses won't be able to put their own ads on television. The two sides are spending at least $1.5 million combined in the Orlando, Las Vegas, and Charlotte markets, and more than $1 million targeting voters in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.