Romney leading the way into early spending season


There are 19 announced candidates for president, eight running for the Democratic nomination and 11 vying for the Republican nod. Six of them are already taking their messages to the airwaves, led easily by Mitt Romney (R-MA), according to a Nielsen Monitor Plus tally. Four of these candidates have put 3998 television ads on the air, over 500 shy of Romney's solo total of 4549. 

Further, Romney almost has national cable to himself. He's used that venue as a platform for 297 ads. The only other candidate to have gone there is Chris Dodd (D-CT), a scant four times. Romney is also a player in the third medium measured in the Nielsen study, local radio, but is well behind Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) in that arena. By far, Iowa is the state of choice for the candidates already spending, with other early primary states getting the bulk of the remainder. On the radio side, according to Nielsen, Giuliani is running nationwide radio advertising while Romney's audio-only campaign is focused on New Hampshire and Central Florida.

SmartMedia observation: The Democratic race is widely seen as a three-tier affair, with John Edwards (D-NC) at the nether end of the top tier with Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL). He has used carefully targeted buys to stay in the top group, while Bill Richardson (D-NM) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) have made bids to join that group. The two front-runners have largely kept their powder dry, although Obama has started to open the warchest.

It's a different kind of race on the Republican side, where one of the people faring best in the polls – Fred Thompson – isn't even running yet. Romney is running from the bluest state there is and has position flips on several key issues to explain to heartland Republicans, and seems to be trying to get that job done as early as possible. A big question is how much longer can the floundering John McCain (R-AZ) campaign afford to sit on the millions in cash it's accumulated? Watch for candidates to increasingly enter into the air wars, particularly in selected states where they feel they can be competitive. We'd say early states normally, but this time around, they're almost all early states. But if you're a marginal candidate and are able to bring home a state delegation of two by concentrating on fringe states on Super Duper Tuesday, it may help you survive into the summer and parlay your support into a cabinet position, a primetime speech or some other political goodie.