Kantar Media’s CMAG recently reported that “this campaign is very developed with few undecided voters in swing states,” pointing to levels of advertising in sample swing-state markets running anywhere from three to 12 times higher than in 2004 or 2008. In one sample week before the conventions, Aug. 15-22, Columbus, Ohio, saw 1,842 presidential ads, three times the 608 ads run in that same week in 2004. Las Vegas voters endured 2,870, three times more than the 867 in 2004, and Orlando saw 1,863 ads, 12 times the 153 ads from that week in 2008.
Adding in the non-presidential campaign ads, CMAG found that as of early September there have been 1.3 million “ad occurrences for all political advertising on local spot TV,” compared with 832,291 at the same point in 2008. CMAG estimates that there will be about 43,000 ads run every day through the election.
If you buy the theory that anyone in a swing state who is still undecided is pretty unlikely to vote, that means that this election becomes pretty much a ground game, coming down to who can get their folks out. It is absolutely impossible to gauge at this point the relative effectiveness of the Obama and Romney campaign operations and their respective party apparatus. At the suggestion of Cook Political Report House Editor David Wasserman, I counted up the state headquarters and field offices for the two campaigns, with the RNC Victory offices counted in the Romney totals. Clearly this is a crude instrument of estimating effort, but in those 11 swing states, the Obama campaign has 526 offices while the Romney campaign and RNC Victory offices total 251. In Colorado, Obama has 55 and Romney 14; it’s Obama 80 and Romney 47 in Florida. In Iowa it’s 65 for Obama and 14 for Romney. Michigan is the one state where there are more Romney than Obama offices (23 to 20). In Nevada, it’s 25 for Obama and 11 for Romney. Obama also holds the edge in New Hampshire (22 to eight), North Carolina (49 to 24), and Ohio (79 to 37). Pennsylvania has 39 Obama and 19 Romney outposts, Virginia has 40 for Obama and 30 for Romney, while in Wisconsin the advantage is for Obama is 52 to 24. This may or may not be a fair way to measure field activity, but I certainly can’t think of any other way to quantify it at this stage.
My advice is to get up every morning and look at the front page and ask yourself, “Do I see anything here that will change the trajectory of this race in a meaningful way that would help Mitt Romney?” Each evening, watch one or more of the three broadcast network evening news programs and ask the same question. If the answer is no both times, then look again the next day and on through the election. But with the saturation levels of advertising that has existed for months and the diminishing numbers of undecided voters, it is increasingly likely that it will take a significant event rather than the normal daily ebb and flow of politics to change the outcome here.