The committees face a tricky balancing act, said Carl Forti, who will buy ads for both the Republican-backing American Crossroads super PAC and Restore Our Future, the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC. On one hand, buying advertising early locks in a price and guarantees a spot in the market before inventory runs out. On the other, an early buy reveals a lot about one's strategy.
"Buying early may save you a little money, but it also commits you to a strategy," Forti said. "So you have to choose if you want to save some money or if you want flexibility."
Both committees made their buys much earlier in the cycle than they ever have before, essentially giving their rivals more time to plan for the pending onslaught and make their own buys. And they're not alone -- Rep. Tom Latham, the Iowa Republican locked in a tough fight against Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell, has already reserved $1.5 million in television time between August and Election Day, his campaign said Wednesday.
In an ordinary year, we don't get a full picture of how a party committee or campaign will advertise until much later in the cycle. This year is so far from ordinary that the battle lines are probably going to be set far earlier.