Between Sept. 11 and Sept. 17, after the two political conventions and as undecided voters began to tune in to the presidential campaign in earnest, President Obama, Mitt Romney, and the outside groups that support them spent $20 million on television advertisements across 10 battleground states.
This week, their last chance to influence voters, the two sides are spending $30 million — in Ohio alone.
Since the start of the general-election campaign, the two sides have spent an incredible $1,057,276,151 on television advertising. That's nearly half a billion dollars more than was spent during the 2008 general election, according to a Hotline analysis of advertising-spending data.
Republicans are outspending Democrats in all 14 states that are seeing presidential advertisements this week. Romney backers have a $3.5 million advantage in Ohio, nearly a $4 million advantage in Virginia and Florida, and more than $2 million edges in Nevada and Wisconsin this week alone. All told, Republicans and Romney's campaign are spending a combined $80 million this week, compared with just $50 million on Obama's side.
That extra Republican spending has been the story of the cycle. Though the Obama campaign has spent far more than Romney's campaign — $379 million to $218 million — the Republican outside groups have more than made up the difference. American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies alone have spent $160 million on television advertisements, while the Romney super PAC Restore Our Future has added another $86 million.
The Republican National Committee, once mired in nearly $25 million in debt, has rebounded to spend an impressive $36 million on independent expenditures boosting Romney. Americans for Prosperity, the conservative organization run by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, has spent an additional $48 million on the race.
All told, Republicans have combined to spend $605 million on television advertising, the data show. Democrats and Obama's campaign have combined to spend $452 million on their own paid media.
Drill down and the numbers are no less jaw-dropping. Voters in Ohio and Florida have seen more than $200 million in advertising apiece, while Virginia voters have been inundated by a $165 million blitz. The media markets in Cleveland, Denver, Orlando, and Tampa — in the heart of the race's most contentious swing states of Ohio, Colorado, and Florida, respectively — have endured a barrage of more than $50 million each.
Nowhere have the two sides spent more than in the metropolitan Washington media market. To date, Republicans and Democrats have purchased almost $84 million in TV advertising aimed at influencing Northern Virginia voters, the data show.
As time grows short, the candidates and outside groups are emptying their coffers at an unprecedented pace. This week alone, the two sides are spending a combined $130 million. Among the top spenders: Obama campaign ($38 million), Romney campaign ($24 million), the two Crossroads groups (a combined $21 million), and Restore Our Future ($12 million).
Republicans are putting advertising on the air in states Romney has barely contested so far this year. Romney's campaign is spending its first dollars in Pennsylvania, a state some in the GOP wrote off as lost months ago. Several Republican groups are spending a little over $1 million in Minnesota. In both cases, Obama's team has responded, making its own $2.75 million foray into Pennsylvania and $341,000 ad buy in Minnesota, moves the campaign characterizes as simple precautionary defense, rather than panic over blue-state poll numbers.
But aside from Republican efforts to expand the map, the battleground states remain the same. The two sides are spending $8 million each in Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada; more than $11 million in Wisconsin; and more than $17 million each in Virginia and Florida.