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Politics / Campaign 2012

Obama Poised To Nearly Double '08 Ad Spending

photo of Reid Wilson
October 5, 2012

President Obama's campaign has spent more than $300 million on television advertising, according to new figures compiled by sources watching the ad market, an amount that puts him on track to nearly double his own record-breaking spending from the 2008 election cycle.


INTERACTIVE:
Battleground Ad Spending

All told, Obama, Republican Mitt Romney and the various outside groups have poured $759 million into television and radio advertisements alone in an effort to communicate their messages with the tiny fraction of voters who remain undecided with just five weeks to go before Election Day. For the week of October 2 to October 8 alone, the two sides are spending a combined $59 million.

 

Obama's spending continues to outpace Romney's own campaign. This week, Obama will spend $20 million on television spots, including nearly $5 million alone in Florida, $4.3 million in Ohio and $3.9 million in Virginia. Obama spent about $230 million on television advertising during the 2008 cycle. If he continues to spend at this pace – about $20 million per week – Obama's campaign will end the race at or above $400 million on television alone. 

Romney, who will spend almost $16 million this week, has allocated $3.8 million to Ohio, $3.4 million in Ohio and $2.4 million in Virginia.

Romney is outspending Obama by small margins in Iowa, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

But outside groups on the Republican side continue to make up Romney's deficit. Combined, Republicans are outspending Obama and his allies in every battleground state except New Hampshire and Virginia.

American Crossroads is the biggest outside actor of the week, dumping $12.4 million into eight battleground states. The super PAC headed by Karl Rove and former RNC chairman Mike Duncan is nearly matching Romney's buy in Florida, outspending Obama in North Carolina and pouring nearly $2 million into Ohio. By comparison, Crossroads is spending more than three times the $3.8 million doled out this week by Priorities USA Action, the Democratic super PAC run by two former top aides to President Obama.

There are signs that Priorities has had trouble raising money at the pace they once predicted. The group has cancelled $4.5 million in advertising they had planned to run in Wisconsin and Florida over the next month. Democrats have characterized those cancellations as a routine reshuffling of priorities and said the money will go instead to Nevada, but records show the group has cut its total ad buys before Election Day by about $5 million. 

Even though he's being outspent, Federal Communications Commission rules allowed Obama to actually run more advertisements than Republican groups. Candidates are allowed to pay the lowest rate available for advertisements, while outside groups like super PACs must pay market rates. That means candidate dollars are more valuable than outside dollars.

As demand spikes with just five weeks to go, those market rates are skyrocketing. Last week, a candidate could buy a gross ratings point – the unit measuring how widely an advertisement is seen – for about $180 in the Las Vegas, Nevada market, while an outside group had to fork over $600 per point. A candidate paid $115 per point in Cincinnati, while outside groups paid $330. And candidates spent $105 for television time on Manchester, New Hampshire's WMUR, while outside groups had to fork over $500 per point. A similar pattern is being repeated in television markets across the country.

All told, Republicans and Romney's campaign have combined to spend $396 million on television time since the beginning of the general election, while Obama and his Democratic allies have spent $363 million. Voters in three states – Florida, Ohio and Virginia – have seen more than $120 million in television advertising, while voters in Colorado, North Carolina and Iowa have all been inundated with more than $50 million in air time.

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