Obama Has Edge in Record Presidential Campaign Ads

The number of presidential election ads on broadcast and national cable television has increased by more than 40 percent over 2008, and viewers in Las Vegas, Denver and Tampa, Florida, saw the most spots over the last three weeks, according to a study released today.

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign outspent everyone else, though his advantage was eroded by outside groups backing Republican nominee Mitt Romney, many of which are nonprofit organizations that keep their donors hidden, according to the report by the Wesleyan Media Project, based at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

The study found that the campaigns and outside groups aired more than 915,000 ads through Oct. 21, a 45 percent increase over the 637,000 TV commercials that ran through the same period four years ago.

“When all is said and done, 2012 will go down as a record pulverizing year for political advertising,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which analyzed the data from New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG.

In the last three weeks, the ads were concentrated on media markets in the swing states that political analysts say will decide the winner on Election Day. All 15 markets with the most ads from Oct. 1-21 reached viewers in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia. Denver, Las Vegas and Tampa, home of the 2012 Republican National Convention, led the list.

More Obama Ads

Obama and outside groups supporting his re-election ran more spots in 13 of those 15 markets than Romney and his allies, the study found. Romney and the Republicans had an advantage in just two: Norfolk, Virginia, and Columbus, Ohio.

In each of those 15 markets, Obama’s campaign ran more ads than anyone else. That advantage was partially offset by the help Romney received from the Republican National Committee, super-political action committees supporting his candidacy and outside groups.

During Oct. 1-21, Obama was on the air in 57 markets, seven more than Romney, and spent $65.3 million, while Romney, by himself or jointly with the RNC, spent $37.5 million. At the same time, eight of the 10 biggest-spending outside groups backed Romney.

Cash on Hand

Obama, who brought in more than $567 million through Sept. 30 for his re-election, entered October with $99 million in his bank account, compared with $63 million for Romney, who raised more than $361 million.

Combined with the Republican National Committee and super- PACs Restore Our Future and American Crossroads, the Romney side had more to spend than Obama, the Democratic National Committee and the super-PAC Priorities USA Action.

Obama’s money went further than did that of Romney and his allies, because campaigns can buy TV ads for less than outside groups.

The Obama campaign “is funding most of its own advertising, which entitles his campaign to the lowest rate,” said Travis Ridout, another Wesleyan co-director. “By contrast, many ads supporting Romney are paid for by outside groups, which must pay whatever the market will bear to get their ads on the air.”

The biggest outside spender for the general election, the report found, was American Crossroads and its sister nonprofit Crossroads GPS, both founded with the help of Karl Rove, former chief political adviser to President George W. Bush, and former Bush aide Ed Gillespie, an adviser to Romney. The two groups spent $90 million, behind only the two presidential nominees.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net.

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