NEW YORK (AP) — Get ready, presidential swing states. Now the campaign ad crush — and TV spending spree — really begins.
The TV ad war for the 2012 presidential contest, its total spending expected to swell to $1.1 billion, is set to start anew now that both party conventions are over and the two-month sprint to the general election is under way. Just over a third of that amount has been spent so far, according to the Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks campaign ad spending.
That means the campaigns and independent groups will spend more on the air in the final eight weeks of the presidential contest than they did in the first five months.
The biggest change is on the Republican side, with Mitt Romney now free to tap millions in general election funds he had collected but could not spend until becoming the party’s official nominee. With that accomplished, the GOP’s already significant spending advantage over President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies will grow larger still — the first time in history an incumbent president will have been outspent on the air by his opponents.
While the level of spending may be eye-popping, the playing field is even narrower. National polls show Obama and Romney in a virtual dead heat, but only eight states are considered true battlegrounds: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. Obama carried all of them against Republican John McCain in 2008, but they are too close to call for now.
Flush with new cash, the Romney campaign moved quickly to take advantage — pouring nearly $5 million into a new ad campaign across those states beginning this weekend after being dark for nearly two weeks. A series of state-specific ads hit Obama on defense spending, business regulations and housing, while another ad uses President Bill Clinton’s words from the 2008 primary race against Obama.
A proliferation of Republican-leaning independent groups led by the two-pronged juggernaut American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS kept Romney in the game throughout the summer while he regrouped from a bruising GOP primary contest that tapped considerable campaign resources. Priorities USA Action, the only significant pro-Obama super PAC, has been far outpaced by the conservative-leaning groups.
Those and other independent groups emerged after the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 loosened campaign finance laws, allowing wealthy individuals to spend unlimited sums on political activity as long as they stay separate from the campaigns themselves. The Crossroads groups are backed by former President George W. Bush’s longtime political counselor Karl Rove, while Americans for Prosperity, another pro-Romney group, was founded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
Together, the Crossroads groups spent about $66 million on ads through the end of August. The vast majority — $58 million — came from Crossroads GPS, which is organized as a social welfare group under tax laws and thus does not have to disclose its donors. AFP, which also does not disclose its donors, spent $35.2 million during that time.
The Obama campaign spent $166 million on ads through Aug. 30, compared with $74 million by the Romney campaign and $22 million by the Republican National Committee. But now, with Romney’s general election resources unleashed and the Republican-leaning groups continuing to air ads backing his candidacy, the Obama campaign will be all but swamped on the air.
“It will be no holds barred on the Republican side. All that money the Obama campaign has been expecting Romney to spend on ads will finally start to flow,” Kantar/CMAG vice president Elizabeth Wilner said. “The Obama campaign is betting on their message, while the Romney campaign is betting on tonnage.”
Obama campaign officials acknowledged Friday how outmatched they are by Republicans on TV but said they had enough money to compete. They also pointed to their sophisticated ground organizing efforts, saying their ability to identify voters and get them to the polls would in part offset their advertising disadvantage.
Romney and the independent groups spent $245 million on ads through the end of August while Obama and his allies spent $188 million, according to information from media buyers provided to The Associated Press. Obama’s team front-loaded its ad spending in the spring, but Republicans caught up in June and began outspending Obama by mid-July — often by a 2-1 margin.
Republicans abandoned their efforts in Michigan and Pennsylvania after hoping to make those Democratic-leaning states competitive for Romney. The GOP hopeful was born in and grew up in Michigan, where his father served as a popular two-term governor. And Pennsylvania has a large population of white, working-class voters, which has long been one of Obama’s weakest demographic groups. A significant shift in momentum for Romney could put those and other states back in play.
Carl Forti, a top adviser to the Crossroads groups and Restore Our Future, another pro-Romney super PAC, said the battleground map “absolutely” could expand and that, if it does, the Republican-leaning groups will be eager to take advantage.
“For people who have only partially been paying attention until now, we have an opportunity to win them over,” Forti said. “As long as they’re disgruntled with the current president, they’ll continue to look elsewhere.”
Both sides are eyeing Wisconsin as a potential new battleground after Romney named Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. Americans for Prosperity and Restore Our Future each spent about $2 million there earlier in the campaign after Republicans beat back a Democratic- and union-backed effort to recall GOP Gov. Scott Walker. Priorities USA Action has recently begun airing ads in Wisconsin, where polls still show Obama leading Romney.
Associated Press writers Jack Gillum in Washington and Jim Kuhnhenn in Portsmouth, N.H., contributed to this report.
Follow Beth Fouhy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bfouhy
More Related Stories
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Is abortion about to doom Republicans again?
- Anti-voter-fraud Tea Party group sues the IRS
- The Bachmann-inspired romance novel
- Nate Silver: Why the scandals aren't hurting Obama
- How to oust Michele Bachmann from Congress
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- Who is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?
- Colorado judge rules Abercrombie parent company violates Disabilities Act
- When America became a third-world country
- Inhofe and Coburn: Red state hypocrites
- It's Whitewater all over again
- Teen activist to meet with Abercrombie CEO
- Anyone regret slashing National Weather Service budget now?
- Oklahoma senator: Tornado aid "totally different" from Sandy aid
- Aloof, shifty Obama: Nixon times ten thousand!
- Obama: Moore "needs to get everything it needs right away"
- California Tea Party group files first IRS lawsuit
- Still no polling backlash for Obama
- Oklahoma senator wants to offset tornado aid with other cuts
- Former IRS commissioner to testify on Capitol Hill
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11