Romney outspends Obama, but gets fewer TV ads

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Team Romney is spending more than Team Obama on TV and cable ads, but Democrats broadcast more ads because they’ve got more candidate-raised cash that can buy commercials at a cut rate.

So far, Romney’s campaign and its various allies have spent or reserved $406.6 million of advertising time, while Obama and his various allies have spent $331.2 million, according to an estimate provided to The Daily Caller.

Between Oct. 8 and Oct. 14, Romney and his allies will spend a little more than $20 million, while Obama and allied groups will spend roughly $18 million.

But federal laws force broadcasters to provide cheaper ad rates to politicians than they charge other groups, including super PACs. The cost disparity can be huge.

For example, “in one Ohio ad buy slated to run just before the election … Obama is paying $125 for a spot that is costing a conservative super PAC $900,” according to a September Washington Post article.

That’s a boost to Obama’s coalition, because his campaign has raised $947 million in cooperation with the Democratic National Committee. Together, they raised $114 million in August, and $181 million in September.

In contrast, a higher percentage of the money raised by Romney’s coalition was raised by his allied super PACs, which are charged higher advertising rates by TV stations.

Also, Obama’s ad campaign can be better coordinated because much of it is paid by the campaign, while super PACs can’t coordinate their activities with a candidate, hindering media planning.

The cumulative impact of these factors can be significant.

From the “August 26 to September 8 period, Obama and his allies aired 40,000 ads on broadcast and national cable television. … Romney and his allies aired roughly 18,000 ads on broadcast and national cable television during that same time period,” concluded a Sept. 12 report by Erika Fowler, a professor at Wesleyan University and a director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising.

In the final week of September, Obama bought roughly 40,796 ads in 15 swing-state media markets, while Romney bought 19,589 ads, according to data provided by the media project.

Obama’s cash advantage, however, was partly offset by Romney’s advantage in allies.

While Obama’s allies, including super PACs, bought 6,358 ads in the 15 media markets, Romney’s allies bought 15,564 ads.

Still, Obama was able to run more ads in 14 out of the 15 media markets tracked by the project.

While Romney ran more ads in Las Vegas, Obama ran more ads in four Ohio markets — Toledo, Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland — as well three Florida markets, including Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers.

By early October, Obama had spent or reserved $279.3 million worth of TV ads, while Romney’s score was $130 million.

Obama’s top super PAC, Priorities USA, spent $46.2 million on ads, but super PACs allied with Romney more than made up the difference.

Restore Our Future PAC spent $65.5 million, American Crossroads spent $52.9 million, and Americans for Prosperity spent $46.5 million, according to the estimate.

The Republican National Committee spent or allocated $22.7 million.

Smaller groups also joined the GOP side: Americans for Job Security spent $8.7 million, Concerned Women for America spent $4.8 million and the American Future Fund spent $4.5 million, according to the spending estimate.

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