If you love political ads, 2012 is your year. Big time.

September 21, 2012

If you love watching political ads on television -- who doesn't?! -- then the 2012 campaign is something of a golden age for you.

The number of TV ads being run in the presidential race has soared in virtually every swing state, according to new analysis from the Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG).  

Take Ohio. Between April and September 2008, 42,827 ads were run by both parties  combined in the Buckeye State.  In 2012, there have already been almost 51,000 Republican ads and 64,000 Democrats ones -- a total of 114,840 TV commercials run in Ohio alone.  That's almost two-and-a-half times as many ads as 2008 in the state.

In Florida, Republicans had run 3,309 ads at this point in 2008; they've run 50,664 in 2012. In Virginia, Democrats had run 6,300 ads by mid-September 2008 while they had run almost 49,000 by that same point in 2012.

The story is the same in virtually every swing state with the exception of Wisconsin, where far more ads had been run by both parties at this point in 2008 than today -- a fascinating factoid given that President Obama is headed to the state tomorrow and Republicans continue to believe they can win the Badger State.

There are two main reason for the proliferation of ads as compared to 2008.

First, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney opted into the public financing system for the general election (as John McCain did in 2008), meaning that they were and are free to raise and spend hundreds of millions on ads.

Second, the emergence of super PACs and other outside spending groups in the 2012 election provides a stark contrast with the playing field in 2008 when Obama purposely worked to keep money from Democratic outside entities and almost no conservative groups rode to the rescue of campaign finance reform minded McCain.

Regardless of the reasoning, the data is fascinating. The full CMAG chart of ads being run in swing states is below. (Click on the chart for a bigger image)

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Aaron Blake · September 21, 2012