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Obama Flexing Financial Muscle With TV Spending

By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama is outspending Sen. John McCain by nearly 3 to 1 on television advertising in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, a financial edge that is almost certainly contributing to the Democrat's momentum in key battleground states.

From Sept. 30 to Oct. 6, Obama spent more than $20 million on TV ads in 17 states, including more than $3 million in Pennsylvania alone and more than $2 million each in Florida, Michigan and Ohio. In the same time frame, McCain spent a total of $7.2 million in 15 states. Even including Republican National Committee's $5.3 million in independent expenditures in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, Obama outspent the combined GOP forces by roughly $8 million in the past week alone.

Obama has used the money to hammer McCain as both a clone of President Bush and out of touch on key domestic issues, most notably the economy. The spending edge has coincided with the collapse of the financial industry and a refocusing by voters on the economy to turn the election from a nail-biter to one in which the Democrat has moved into a discernible lead.

Obama's fundraising machine has continued to churn in recent months, while McCain ceded the right to raise any more money when he accepted $84 million in public funds for his campaign. Obama brought in $67.5 million in August alone and ended that month with more than $77 million on hand. (Reports for September are not due at the Federal Election Commission until Oct. 20.)

Obama's ad-spending strategy has been based on the idea of straining the GOP's cash reserves by forcing McCain to devote resources to nontraditional battlegrounds such as Indiana, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia.

That decision paid off for Obama last week when McCain pulled his costly TV commercials in Michigan. In the past week, Obama spent nearly $2.2 million on ads in Michigan, compared with $642,000 for McCain and just over $1 million from the RNC.

A detailed look at ad spending over the past week shows clearly how the Democrat is using his financial advantage. Obama outspent McCain in 13 of the 15 states where both candidates were on television, in some cases drastically.

In Florida, where recent polling suggests Obama has surged, the senator from Illinois spent more than $2.8 million on TV ads in the past week while the senator from Arizona spent $623,000.

In North Carolina, Obama dropped approximately $1.5 million on commercials last week while McCain spent only $137,000. Some polls now show the race in that state, which Bush won by 12 points in 2004, as a dead heat.

Even in Pennsylvania, a state where McCain is now focusing much of his time and energy, Obama's spending advantage is massive. Obama spent a little more than $3 million on ads in the Keystone State last month, compared with McCain's $1.2 million and an additional $807,000 from the RNC.

In Virginia, which has gone Republican in every presidential election since 1964, Obama's pronounced spending advantage is also being felt. Obama spent $1.6 million on ads in the commonwealth last week while the combined forces of McCain and the RNC spent $909,000.

Only in Minnesota and Iowa did McCain have a spending edge on television over Obama in the past week.

In Minnesota, the McCain campaign spent $377,000 on TV ads, far more than the $196,000 Obama spent in the same period. Republicans saw a significant uptick in their poll numbers in Minnesota after the party's convention in St. Paul in August, although most recent surveys show Obama reclaiming a statistically significant lead. History is also against McCain in the state, as no Republican presidential nominee has carried Minnesota since 1972.

In Iowa, McCain spent $297,000 on television, compared with $224,000 for Obama. That's rough parity in a state where polling shows Obama with a comfortable lead. McCain has spent considerable time, attention and money in Iowa, however, a strategy that has baffled many in the Obama campaign. Iowa went for then-Vice President Al Gore by 4,000 votes in 2000, but Bush carried the state by 10,000 votes four years later.

Spending by the RNC's independent expenditure arm has kept McCain within shouting distance of Obama in several crucial states, including Ohio and Wisconsin.

In Ohio, Obama spent $2.86 million on television last week while the combination of McCain ($1.1 million) and the RNC ($1.66 million) gave Democrats just a $100,000 edge. Democrats had a spending edge about twice that big in Wisconsin, where Obama spent $1.24 million, compared with $1.03 million for McCain and the RNC.

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