President Obama, Mitt Romney and the outside groups supporting their campaigns have spent more than $881 million on television advertising since the general election began, according to sources watching the advertising market. With a little over two weeks to go, the two sides are on pace to top the $1 billion mark by Election Day.
The two sides are spending just over $62 million this week alone, according to the data, the second week in a row they have combined to spend $60 million. Romney and his Republican allies have consistently outspent Obama and the Democratic super PACs that back the president's re-election; this week, the Romney side is outpacing Obama by a $36.5 million to $25.5 million pace.
But the battleground remains largely the same. The saturation-level spending includes $14.3 million the two sides are spending in Florida; $13.9 million in Ohio and almost $9.3 million in Virginia. Republicans are outspending Obama in every swing state with the lone exception of Nevada.
Obama's campaign is still spending more than Romney's, though, and Federal Communication Commission rules allow a candidate to buy advertising at a cheaper rate than outside groups pay. This week, Obama's campaign will spend $21.3 million, compared with $15.4 million Romney dished out.
Obama's campaign has also purchased advertising in key swing states earlier than his opponents, which allows a campaign to lock in lower rates than they would find if they waited to spend later. Already, the Obama campaign has booked $15.3 million in advertising for the week of October 23 to October 29, and $14.9 million for the week of October 30 to November 6.
The two Crossroads groups have booked a similar dollar amount during the final two weeks. The data show the groups, run by Republican political strategist Karl Rove, have bought a combined $30 million in advertising over the last two weeks.
This week, American Crossroads remains the biggest player among outside groups. They are spending $12.6 million this week alone, three times the $4 million the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action is spending. Outside groups like the National Rifle Association, the Republican National Committee and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies are also spending a little more than $1 million on Romney's cause in key states this week.
At least some Republicans hope to use Romney's strong performance in the first presidential debate, and the bump in the polls that came with it, to expand the map of battleground states in which he can compete. Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super PAC, has begun advertising again in Michigan; the group is spending just over $1 million on advertising running in all five of the state's media markets.
Democrats, confident in their poll numbers in the Wolverine State, haven't spent any money there during the general election.
But polls have shown another swing state, Wisconsin, tightening. A survey conducted by Marquette University released Wednesday showed Obama in a statistical tie with Romney, while an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted by Marist College showed Obama ahead by a more comfortable 51 percent to 45 percent margin.
The way the Obama campaign is spending may hint that their internal numbers look more like Marquette's than Marist's. Team Obama spent $1.9 million on advertisements in Wisconsin this week, more than the campaign is spending in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Iowa and Colorado.
As Republicans search for Democratic-leaning states in which to compete, Romney is spending just about $680,000 in Wisconsin, while Restore Our Future drops $1.4 million into the state. The NRA and Ending Spending, a conservative group funded by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, are also up with significant ad buys in the low six-figures this week.