Obama Outspending McCain On TV Ads

Last week alone, Barack Obama outspent John McCain by about $6 million in television advertising. Jonathan Martin of Politico says there are two elements to the story: Obama's enormous fundraising advantage over McCain, and how much money the Democrat is pouring into advertising in red states.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Well, Senators Obama and McCain are also taking their sparring to the airwaves. The two candidates spent $28 million on TV ads last week alone. That's according to analysis from the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project. Obama substantially outspent McCain, about $17.5 million for Obama's ads to about $11 million for McCain's. And here's a striking finding. The analysis shows that in this past week nearly 100 percent of the McCain campaign ads were negative compared with about a third of the Obama ads. I talked about this with reporter Jonathan Martin of Politico. We began with the only two states where McCain is outspending Obama.

Mr. JONATHAN MARTIN (Reporter, Politico.com): Iowa is a state that narrowly went for President Bush in 2004, that most polls show Obama winning comfortably, but the McCain folks think they still have a shot there. Minnesota, a blue state with a progressive tradition, tough to see McCain winning there, but they have forced Obama to go up on TV there now, which he hadn't been before. But the real story here I think is two-fold, Melissa. So number one, just the enormous advantage that you mentioned at the outset that Obama now has on TV over McCain. And I think that validates the Obama decision, that was much criticized, to not take public funding, to ensure this kind of free hand in the month of October to spend liberally.

And further, what's really telling, I think, is just how much money Obama has plowed into a red state. I'm thinking about places like Florida, Virginia, North Carolina. A few months ago, we didn't think these states were going to be competitive in the end. And now they're not only competitive, but Obama has a slight advantage in some polls in these states. And if you look at what McCain has spent in these red states - Florida, Carolina, Virginia - it's nowhere near what Obama has there on TV.

BLOCK: Yes, some of these numbers are quite stunning. I mean, Barack Obama outspending John McCain in North Carolina by eight to one, three to one in Florida, three to one in Virginia.

Mr. MARTIN: And look also at where McCain and Palin are. In the final weeks before Election Day, don't listen to what the candidates say. Look where they go and where they spend their money. It's hard to believe that you're going to have the GOP ticket in places like Richmond and Virginia Beach in mid-October. But this Monday, that's where they are going to be.

BLOCK: We have a couple of the recent TV ads with us here. And let's listen to one from John McCain. This one they titled "Dangerous."

(Soundbite of McCain campaign ad)

Unidentified Announcer #1: Who is Barack Obama? He says our troops in Afghanistan are...

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): Just air raiding villages and killing civilians...

Unidentified Announcer #1: How dishonorable. Congressional liberals voted repeatedly to cut off funding to our active troops, increasing the risk on their lives. How dangerous.

BLOCK: Now Jonathan, the analysis from the Wisconsin project said that there are more negative ads running this year than four years ago in 2004.

Mr. MARTIN: Dangerous, dishonorable, risky, and who is Barack Obama? That ad is the dominant spot that McCain has up right now across the nation. And that I think speaks to where his campaign is. They're trying to make this into a contest about character, whereas at the same time Obama is focusing on the issues.

BLOCK: Right. And you mentioned the economic crisis. Barack Obama has an ad picking up on the plan that John McCain announced during the debate this week about having the Treasury Department buy up troubled mortgages. This one is called "Tested."

(Soundbite of Obama campaign ad)

Unidentified Announcer #2: McCain would shift the burden from lenders to taxpayers, guaranteeing a loss of taxpayer money. Who wins? The same lenders that caused the crisis in the first place. Putting bad actors ahead of taxpayers? We can't afford more of the same.

BLOCK: And that too would be considered a negative ad, Jonathan?

Mr. MARTIN: It sure would. And look, it's important to remember that both of these candidates are spending millions of dollars on negative ads. There are no candidates here riding on a white horse. The difference is that McCain is focusing more on character-based attacks whereas Obama is doing some of that, but he's really trying to hit McCain on issues. And why is that? Because every poll shows voters prefer Democrats on the issues.

BLOCK: If we see Barack Obama's lead continue to solidify in the next weeks before the election, would you expect the tone of either party's ads to change as that happens?

Mr. MARTIN: I think what's going to happen is that you'll see McCain keep focusing on character. That's where the McCain campaign wants to take this. And I think in response to that, you'll see Obama hitting back, certainly talking about McCain's character some. But you'll also see Obama, I think, do some positive ads, underscoring his Americaness.

BLOCK: We've been talking with reporter Jonathan Martin of Politico. Jonathan, thanks very much.

Mr. MARTIN: Thanks, Melissa.

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Obama Outspending McCain In Three Key States

Sen. Barack Obama i i

hide captionSen. Barack Obama greets supporters during a campaign rally at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis on Wednesday.

Mark Lyons/Getty Images
Sen. Barack Obama

Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters during a campaign rally at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis on Wednesday.

Mark Lyons/Getty Images

Obama Outspending McCain In Key States

In the battleground states of North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana, polls show that Sen. Barack Obama is gaining ground against his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain. That may be partly because the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee so far have outspent McCain and the RNC on TV ads in those states by $14.4 million to $5.7 million.

By comparison, during the 2004 election season, Sen. John Kerry and the DNC spent a total of $8 million in the three states, while President Bush and the RNC dropped $11 million.

Here's how the candidates' spending on TV spots so far this year breaks down in these hotly contested states:

North Carolina:

Obama and the DNC have spent about $5.2 million in North Carolina, while McCain has spent just more than $790,000.

Missouri:

Obama and the DNC have spent about $5.2 million in the state, while McCain has spent nearly $4.7 million.

Indiana:

Obama and the DNC have spent almost $4.1 million in Indiana, while McCain and the RNC have spent just under $247,000. By itself, the McCain camp has spent $458.

Tracking and analysis of the campaigns' TV ad spending done by the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Sen. John McCain i i

hide captionSen. John McCain speaks about the economy last week at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Sen. John McCain

Sen. John McCain speaks about the economy last week at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday brought his Democratic campaign to Indianapolis, the capital of a state that's been about as reliably Republican as they get in presidential elections.

At an outdoor rally, he had the crowd roaring with this closer: "If you will stand with me, if you will work with me, if you will vote for me in 27 days, I promise you we will not just win Indiana, we will win this general election."

Behind that speech is a media and ground operation that has astonished Indiana politicos. It's a prime example of how this presidential campaign is changing America's political landscape.

In 2004, President Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry didn't spend a penny on TV advertising in Indiana. No one doubted that the state would go Republican. But right now, Indiana is barely tilting toward Sen. John McCain. Obama is outspending McCain on television there by a margin of 20-to-1.

Numbers like those, in Indiana and some other once-solid Republican states, seem to confirm Obama's judgment in rejecting public financing. The decision cost the Illinois senator an $84 million grant from the government, meaning he has to keep on raising money. But if he had taken the money — as McCain did — he could not spend anything beyond that. Instead, with a fundraising network that set records throughout the primaries, Obama's financial picture easily eclipses McCain's.

With public financing, McCain has to stretch his $84 million from early September through Election Day.

From now through early November, Obama might exceed that amount, just in television buys. That's the calculation of Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks TV spending.

"It's a strategic win for the Democrats, anytime you have to tie a Republican down in states like North Carolina and states like Indiana," Tracey said. "I think McCain probably felt like they would be out of Missouri by now, and Obama would be out of Missouri, and that just hasn't been the case."

Instead, both campaigns are pouring dollars into Missouri: $5.2 million for TV from Obama and the Democratic National Committee; $4.7 million for TV from McCain and the Republican National Committee. McCain has 16 field offices, while Obama has 41.

Television buys and field offices are among the few ways to gauge a campaign's strength in any state. Federal disclosure forms aren't designed to allow the teasing-out of state-by-state spending data. And the campaigns won't say how many paid staffers they deploy.

North Carolina is another normally solid Republican state in presidential elections. Yet on Tuesday, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was campaigning at East Carolina University in Greenville.

"We're asking for your vote because we know it's going to come down to the wire," she said, her voice rising to a shout as the crowd cheered. "Here in North Carolina, you can help put us there in D.C. to put the government back on your side."

Again, the money tells the story. Obama's TV spending in North Carolina has already surpassed $5 million. McCain has spent a little over $790,000.

Linda Daves, chairwoman of the North Carolina Republican Party, said Obama wasted his money by going on the air too early. And in her explanation, she got in a subtle dig about his fundraising: "Most wise campaigns — unless they're getting so much money from somewhere they think they'll never run out — most wise campaigns hold their guns until they see the whites of their eyes."

But it's not clear how McCain and the RNC will match Obama's pace in the final three weeks. The RNC has raised far more money than the Democratic National Committee, and it can spend unlimited amounts on "independent expenditure" ads that aren't coordinated with McCain's operation. But at least so far, those ads have not been as plentiful or as effective as anticipated.

Back in Indiana, the state GOP is optimistic about the re-election chances of Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels but glum about the Arizona senator's fortunes. "I hate to keep going back to money," party chairman Murray Clark said. "But I think it's hard for campaign and political veterans to fathom what kind of money the Obama campaign has."

Clark said the RNC has now made a $750,000 ad buy in Indiana.

But with Obama already laying out $4 million there, the RNC effort against him seems like a late start, according to state Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker.

"They've allowed us to lap them for too long," he said. "For so long, they didn't want to admit that Indiana was a battleground state." Parker estimates that Obama has more than 100 paid staff members in the state.

Clark says Obama's troops seem to be focusing on the state's strongest GOP counties, trying to pick off moderate Republicans. Obama also benefits by being a senator from Chicago, practically next door to northwestern Indiana.

Even if Obama's in-your-face strategy doesn't put Indiana in his column on Nov. 4, Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group said, "Every day and every dollar that McCain and the RNC spend in Indiana is a day and a dollar they can't spend in Ohio and Pennsylvania."

Those are traditionally two of the biggest battleground states. It's in states such as Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina where Obama's unfettered dollars are changing the game.

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