The ideal independent-ad buy has two elements: a big splash in press coverage, which is free, and just a few bucks expended buying airtime.
The anti-abortion organization Born Alive Truth pulled that off last week. It got as much press as any group for an ad attacking Obama. But since the ad debuted Sept. 16, the group only spent about $69,000 to air it, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Rightchange.com put out an ad implicitly critical of Obama at the same time. It laid out $420,000 for airtime, but the ad's weirdness — a bungee-jumping middle-aged guy spouting a dense tax policy message — just wasn't sexy enough to get much press.
Vets for Freedom also committed $263,000 last week in anti-Obama airtime.
But conservative groups were outspent in the past week, mostly by unions.
The Service Employees International Union alone spent $650,000 to run an ad blasting McCain on the economy.
Moveon.org had the same media success as Born Alive Truth, generating a ton of press before it even started airing its anti-McCain ad., but spending just $82,000 since Sept. 18. Add in relatively small ad buys by Defenders of Wildlife, Planned Parenthood and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the score from the last week, according to CMAG estimates, is:
Liberals = $862,000
Conservatives = $752,000
But the NRA is coming to the rescue.