Obama Has Burst in Ad Spending in Early October

Harry Smith sat down with Sen. Barack Obama to discuss his break from the campaign to visit his ailing grandmother with the election drawing closer. Video by CBSNEWS.com
By Matthew Mosk and Sarah Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, October 25, 2008

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama reported spending $82 million on advertising during the first two weeks of October -- more than half of what Sen. John F. Kerry spent on television commercials for the entire 2004 presidential campaign.

The burst of spending came on the heels of Obama's record month of fundraising and has, in some key markets, enabled the presidential nominee to broadcast as many as seven commercials for every one aired by Republican Sen. John McCain.

"It's beyond saturation," said Evan Tracey, a media analyst.

The overall differences in the way each campaign spent money during the critical first weeks of October are stark.

The reports filed with the Federal Election Commission late Thursday show that Obama and the Democratic Party committees that are supporting his effort spent nearly $105 million from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15. McCain and Republican Party entities, by contrast, spent just over $25 million.

Ten days ago, the campaigns each had about $100 million left in the bank to carry them through Election Day. But Obama's decision to forgo public financing for the general-election campaign has left him free to continue to raise money in the race's waning weeks. The Democrat raised an additional $37 million in the first half of the month, most of it via online donations.

For fundraising, McCain has relied on the Republican National Committee, which reported bringing in about $15 million through various entities during the first half of October.

The spending advantage has enabled Obama to blunt any potential for criticism of the negative ads he has run by complementing them with twice as many biographical and issue-oriented spots. And he has been able to advertise in costly media markets that reach battleground states, such as the Boston market (New Hampshire), the Washington, D.C., market (Northern Virginia) and even the Chicago market (Indiana).

"Obama has spent more in these markets than McCain had to spend for the entire general election," said Tracey, whose firm tracks spending on political ads.

The advantage has also been in evidence on the ground. In October, Obama and the Democratic National Committee had $2.3 million in payroll costs, compared with about $1 million for McCain and the RNC.

One of those salaries garnered media attention yesterday -- $36,000 in payments the RNC made to makeup artist Amy Strozzi, and about $19,000 it paid hair stylist Angela Lew. These charges are not entirely uncommon -- all campaigns have a theatrical element to them and require some attention to the appearance of the candidate, or in this case, vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

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