Get ready, presidential swing states. Now the campaign ad crush and TV spending spree really begins. The biggest change is on the Republican side, with Mitt Romney now free to tap millions in general election funds he had collected but could not spend until becoming the party’s official nominee. With that accomplished, the GOP’s already significant spending advantage over President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies will grow larger still — the first time in history an incumbent president will have been outspent on the air by his opponents, reports Fox News/AP.
The TV ad war for the 2012 presidential contest, its total spending expected to swell to $1.1 billion, is set to start anew now that both party conventions are over and the two-month sprint to the general election is under way. Just over a third of that amount has been spent so far, according to the Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group.
That means the campaigns and independent groups will spend more on the air in the final eight weeks of the presidential contest than they did in the first five months. Right now, national polls show Obama and Romney in a virtual dead heat, but only eight states are considered true battlegrounds: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.
Flush with new cash, the Romney campaign moved quickly, pouring nearly $5 million into a new ad campaign across those states beginning this weekend after being dark for nearly two weeks. A series of state-specific ads hit Obama on defense spending, business regulations and housing, while another ad uses President Bill Clinton’s words from the 2008 primary race against Obama.
Republican-leaning independent groups led by American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS kept Romney in the game throughout the summer. Priorities USA Action, the only significant pro-Obama super PAC, has been far outpaced by the conservative-leaning groups, said the story.
Those and other independent groups emerged after the Supreme Court decision loosened campaign finance laws in 2010, allowing wealthy individuals to spend unlimited sums on political activity as long as they stay separate from the campaigns themselves. The Crossroads groups are backed by Karl Rove, while Americans for Prosperity, another pro-Romney group, was founded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
Together, the Crossroads groups spent about $66 million on ads through the end of August. The vast majority ($58 million) came from Crossroads GPS, which is organized as a social welfare group under tax laws and thus does not have to disclose its donors. AFP, which also does not disclose its donors, spent $35.2 million during that time.
The Obama campaign spent $166 million on ads through 8/30, compared with $74 million by the Romney campaign and $22 million by the Republican National Committee. But now, with Romney’s general election resources unleashed and the Republican-leaning groups continuing to air ads backing his candidacy, the Obama campaign will be all but swamped on the air.
Both sides are eyeing Wisconsin as a potential new battleground after Romney named Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate. Americans for Prosperity and Restore Our Future each spent about $2 million there earlier in the campaign after Republicans beat back a Democratic- and union-backed effort to recall GOP Gov. Scott Walker. Priorities USA Action has recently begun airing ads in Wisconsin, where polls still show Obama leading Romney.