The most recent week’s presidential advertising hasn’t changed in one key respect since my previous post: there are still more Democratic ads than Republican ads.
In short, I think the Democrats’ continued advantage belies the presumption that Romney and the super-PACs would dominate the air waves. But I don’t think the Democrats’ continued advantage will necessarily win them this election.
The advertising data also provide a useful check on some conventional wisdom about candidate strategies. Take this from Politico:
With a little more than two weeks left until judgment day, Barack Obama’s campaign is embracing a fundamentally defensive strategy centered on winning Ohio at all costs…A surging Romney is suddenly playing offense all over the map.
The article goes on to assert that Obama is “is relying on a three-state solution— winning Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada puts him over the top.”
This is not reflected in how the candidates are advertising. The graph below is too small to read clearly, but click to enlarge it and you will see that Obama is not simply defending Ohio, Wisconsin, and Nevada. If he were, you might expect to see him pulling off the air in Florida, Virginia, and the like. He is not. Now, it may be that Obama is merely locked into using advertising time that he bought earlier. And it may be that he will lose Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia regardless. But it’s still far too early to conclude that he is conceding those states.
A better metaphor is that both candidates are on offense essentially everywhere. Here’s a graph comparing their targeting strategies in just the past week:
All of this could change in the closing weeks. But it is worth noting how little has changed to this point. The Democrats have maintained a small advantage in the number of ads aired. Both Democrats and Republicans have targeted the same sets of states and in roughly equal measure. Stasis doesn’t make for an interesting narrative, but it happens to be the more accurate one.
John Sides is a professor of political science at George Washington University and a founding member of the Monkey Cage.