An analysis by the University of Wisconsin's Advertising Project finds that Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., spent more than ten times as much on television advertising this year as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
In all, presidential candidates in 2008 spent nearly $200 million on TV ads, making television stations around the country the real winners.
The Democrats spent the most at approximately $136 million. Obama alone ($78 million) outspent all Republicans combined ($57 million), while Clinton spent $49 million. By contrast, McCain spent only $11 million on ads this year. The leading spender in the GOP race was Mitt Romney, who poured $31.6 million into his nomination bid that folded in early February.
The amount candidates spent this year blows away the money spent in previous years. In 2004, all Democrats combined spent $51 million. Those contenders included Sen. John Kerry, Howard Dean, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Joe Lieberman and retired general Wesley Clark. There was no major competitor to President Bush on the GOP side in 2004.
While his Democratic rivals remained bogged down by the protracted primary battle, McCain has countered the huge television presence by Democrats over the past six months. Since wrapping up the Republican nomination 90 days ago, he has quietly tried to get an early edge with voters by spending about $1.5 million on television ads in key swing states, including Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico and West Virginia.
The study, based on data compiled by the Campaign Media Analysis Group, found that getting up on television first, and being there alone, helps presidential candidates in crucial states.
"A big story in this campaign," says Ken Goldstein, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin who commented on the benefits of ad spending, "is the hundreds of millions of dollars that were not spent attacking John McCain in February, March, April, and now May of 2008.”
He goes on: "If [the Democrats] do not [win the presidency], the money that was not spent early on to define John McCain among swing voters in swing states ... may be one of the reasons.”
According to Evan Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, McCain is chasing independent voters which supported Clinton in the primary and may now be feeling disgruntled as Obama emerges as the nominee.
"If he can build up a little lead in some of these states, it just means Obama needs to work a little harder, spend a little more time there," Tracey said.
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