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Ads Target Democratic States as Republicans Expand Map

President Barack Obama, Republican challenger Mitt Romney and their allies have expanded their television advertising battle into states that have traditionally voted Democratic in White House elections, as some surveys show tightening races in those areas.

Both campaigns have aired ads in Minnesota and are planning spots in Pennsylvania, joining outside groups already on the air in those states. Obama also will air ads in Michigan to counter Republican groups there.

Michigan and Pennsylvania last supported a Republican for president in 1988, while every Democratic White House candidate has carried Minnesota since 1976. While the stepped-up ad activity underscores how Republicans are trying to expand the election’s battleground states from the nine where Romney and Obama have spent most of their time and money, the campaigns offer differing explanations for what the buys say about the state of their race.

Republicans say the Obama campaign’s decision to run ads in the states show that his re-election bid is flagging and that he is laboring to win states that voted solidly for him four years ago.

“While the Obama campaign would like to wish it is 2008, the reality is that they are now forced to ‘play defense’” in states vital to the president getting the 270 electoral votes needed for victory, Rich Beeson, Romney’s political director, said in a memorandum yesterday.

‘Throwing Money’

Obama’s campaign portrays Romney and Republicans as acting out of desperation, pointing to a narrower path for the former Massachusetts governor to the 270-vote mark.

“We have the map and they have the myths,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said on a conference call with reporters today.

Romney is “throwing money at states where he never built an organization,” Messina said.

Obama led Romney by three percentage points in Michigan, according to a Detroit News poll conducted Oct. 27-29. The president led Romney by four percentage points in Pennsylvania, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll conducted Oct. 23-28. Obama carried Michigan by 16 points and Pennsylvania by 10 points in the 2008 election.

In Minnesota, which Obama won by 10 points four years ago, the president led Romney by three points in a Star-Tribune survey conducted Oct. 23-25 and by eight points in a State Cloud State University poll conducted Oct. 15-21.

Full-Fledged Contests

Each side has ample resources to wage full-fledged campaigns across multiple fronts. Obama had $94 million in leftover funds on Oct. 17 compared to $53 million for Romney, Federal Election Commission reports show. Outside groups including super-PACs and non-profit organizations have helped Romney close the fundraising gap and have the money to help fuel the expanded ad war.

Romney’s campaign will air an ad in Pennsylvania that attacks Obama on energy policy, its first spot in the state since he effectively clinched the Republican nomination in April. Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes.

Romney’s late Pennsylvania effort is aided by outside groups including Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney super-PAC that said yesterday it would spend $2.1 million on ads in the state before the Nov. 6 election. Restore Our Future last ran Pennsylvania ads in late August, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising.

Economic Issue

Americans for Job Security, a non-profit group with Republican ties, began running an ad Oct. 27 in Pennsylvania attacking Obama’s management of the economy.

Obama’s campaign is airing ads in Pennsylvania beginning today for the first time since late July, according to CMAG and filings with the Federal Communications Commission.

The pro-Obama Patriot Majority PAC began airing ads Oct. 25 in Pittsburgh attacking Romney for his ties to Bain Capital LLC, the Boston-based private-equity company he co-founded.

In Michigan, which has 16 electoral votes, Obama’s campaign will air ads defending his administration’s rescue of the automobile industry. The ads are meant to combat advertising by Restore Our Future, which said yesterday that it would spend $2.2 million more on anti-Obama ads in Michigan during the last days of the campaign.

Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit group founded and funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, said today that it would begin a $3 million ad campaign in Pennsylvania and Michigan beginning tomorrow.

Longest Streak

In Minnesota, where the streak of voting Democratic for president is the nation’s longest, the Romney and Obama campaigns bought ads on stations in St. Paul and Minneapolis that also reach viewers in western Wisconsin, one of the swing states where the campaigns have been fully engaged for months. Both sides also have been airing ads for weeks in Rochester, Minnesota, where stations reach northeastern parts of Iowa, another of the swing states -- those with a recent history of supporting either major party’s presidential candidate.

Former President Bill Clinton stumped for Obama yesterday in Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota.

Restore Our Future said today that it is spending $1.1 million in Minnesota and $700,000 in New Mexico, another state that leans Democratic in presidential elections.

A late ad skirmish also has broken out over one electoral vote, with Republicans targeting Maine’s 2nd congressional district. Maine and Nebraska award some of their electoral votes by congressional district, eschewing the winner-take-all format used by the other 48 states.

Restore Our Future began advertising Oct. 25 in the Bangor and Presque Isle markets in northern Maine.

Both campaigns have been advertising in Omaha, Nebraska, the biggest city in the state’s 2nd congressional district, the least Republican-leaning of the state’s three districts. Obama has run ads in Omaha since May, while Romney began ads there in late September, mainly to reach the residents of western Iowa who vote in a swing state.

Obama’s narrow win in the Omaha district in 2008 gave him one of Nebraska’s five electoral votes, though surveys suggest it will be tougher for the president to replicate the task next week. Romney led Obama by 49 percent to 44 percent in Nebraska’s 2nd district, according to an Omaha World-Herald poll conducted Oct. 23-25.

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