By Matea Gold, Tribune Washington Bureau –
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has overtaken GOP challenger Mitt Romney in what had been an evenly matched television air war for much of the year, benefiting in recent weeks from thousands of more ads run on his behalf in key battleground states, according to an analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.
Since the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention in early September, Obama and his backers have outflanked Romney and his allies in 14 out of the 15 top media markets, according to the report, which is based on broadcast television and national cable spots tracked by the firm Kantar Media/CMAG.
Las Vegas was the only major market where the Romney forces enjoyed an advantage — thanks to outside groups, which ran more than twice as many ads there than the GOP candidate himself.
Obama’s lead in campaign ads marks a change in the dynamic that dominated the race for the spring and summer, as both sides deployed about equal resources in the air war, Wesleyan Media reported previously.
But beginning in late August, Obama began to pull ahead. In the last three weeks, the president’s re-election campaign and his outside allies ran 47,353 spots in the top 15 markets, while Romney and his backers aired 35,902.
The data raise questions about whether the deep-pocketed outside groups such as Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity will be able to help Romney maintain parity in the advertising war, as many have assumed. The prominence of the GOP-allied outside groups — which are legally prohibited from coordinating with Romney and the party — have also led to a confusing mix of political messages.
Obama’s bid is being supported by a phalanx of liberal outside groups, headed up by the super PAC Priorities USA Action, along with labor and women’s rights organizations. But the president’s campaign is controlling the bulk of the advertising airing on his behalf.
Since the start of the general election campaign in April, when Romney effectively secured the nomination, the Obama campaign has spent an estimated $164 million on 363,000 ads. Priorities USA Action has put up $14.6 million for 31,700 spots.
Meanwhile, the Romney campaign has spent $57 million on 127,000 ads. The four biggest spending conservative groups poured another $129 million in 181,600 spots hammering Obama.
The intense on-air battles, contained in nine battleground states, threaten to create viewer fatigue long before Election Day.
“If advertising in the presidential race continues at its current pace, the number of presidential ads aired this year will eclipse 2004 and 2008 totals by the second week of October,” Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, said in the group’s report. “The sky is the limit here on what the final number will be by November 6th.”