STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY: The most telling amount in a presidential campaign is how much the winner raised. For President Obama in 2008, that number was nearly $746 million. It was double what then-President George W. Bush raised just four years earlier, which itself was double what Bush raised four years before that. It's the first time ever that presidential fundraising has shot up that fast, and it puts the Obama reelection campaign within easy reach of raising one billion dollars, a volume of cash that takes the campaign out of politics as usual.
BRAD ADGATE: He would be a top 100 advertiser. You know, it's what Home Depot spends, about a billion dollars a year.
OVERBY: Still, Adgate says a billion-dollar campaign could dominate TV in the battleground states.
ADGATE: There are states that are going to be inundated. In fact, in, say, 2008, 87 percent of all local TV dollars spent went to just 11 states.
OVERBY: But the non-competitive states mostly get ignored, so the TV budget wouldn't have to be all that big.
ADGATE: You know, a few hundred million is more than enough.
OVERBY: Political scientist Tony Corrado, a specialist in political money, says that even in 2008, the Obama campaign was flush.
TONY CORRADO: By October, some of the campaign insiders were saying that it was raining money.
OVERBY: And unlike 2008, the Republican nominee this time will likely be just as prosperous. Corrado foresees a billion-dollar contest for the nomination, and there are predictions of a quick $250 million infusion when it's locked up.
CORRADO: And if that's the case, we will certainly be entering a realm of presidential spending that we have never seen before.
OVERBY: Here's Robert Mutch.
ROBERT MUTCH: There was money from big business in 1936 - a big spike in that. Big business really went all out.
OVERBY: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay made the case on C-SPAN a few years ago.
TOM DELAY: There's not enough money in politics. You know, Americans spend more on potato chips than they do on elections?
MUTCH: It's a cute little thing. Oh, Americans spent X amount of money on potato chips last year.
OVERBY: Again, historian Robert Mutch.
MUTCH: People have been using arguments like that. You know, back in the '30s, it was Wrigley's gum.
OVERBY: Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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