Even after the station limited the Obama spots, baseball fans got plenty of politics, with six ads for Obama, one for Republican rival Mitt Romney and one for Democratic Senate candidate Timothy M. Kaine — all shoehorned into six commercial breaks.
The River City is enduring a presidential ad blitz like never before. A place long bypassed by presidential campaigns suddenly has one of the nation’s most heavily saturated local TV markets. More than 140 times on an average day, an ominous voice-over warns Richmond area voters that their president is killing the economy or that Romney helped ship American jobs overseas. With about 1,000 such ads airing per week — unheard of in the state this early in a presidential campaign — the former Confederate capital hasn’t felt so besieged since the Union army was banging on the door.
“It’s late October in July,” said Bob Holsworth, a retired Virginia Commonwealth University political science professor. “You have back-to-back commercials, and it’s hard to imagine the election is four months away.”
What the siege will mean for the outcome in November is uncertain. But both campaigns see Virginia as a place where they must drive home their central messages — on the air and in person. For Obama, who visits the Richmond suburbs Saturday as part of a two-day swing through the state, that has meant portraying Romney as “outsourcer-in-chief.” And for Romney, who hit Roanoke and Sterling late last month, that has meant casting the president as someone unable to lead the country out of recession.
The messages do not appear tailored to Virginia, where the state’s 5.5 percent unemployment rate is well below the 8.2 percent national average. “Blunt-force advertising” is how Holsworth described the ads, meaning they are “in keeping with the national message but don’t seem necessarily calibrated to the special circumstances of Virginia.”
But even in Richmond’s suburbs, there is economic anxiety to exploit. The campaigns and their allies seem to be betting that, with enough inundation, they’ll break through.
The strategy could be working on Michael Broadway, 18, who lives with his parents in an upscale townhouse village built around a Whole Foods Market in Henrico County. He isn’t sure who will get his vote — his first. But the ads accusing Romney of outsourcing jobs have caught his attention.
“That’s probably the most interesting one,” said Broadway, who plans to enter J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College this fall fall and is worried about his prospects after graduation. “My parents are conservative, but one of the things that concerns me is outsourcing jobs.”