Political Uncertainty Sends Ad Spending Soaring

Feb 10, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The Super Tuesday results are sending the presidential race into extra innings, delivering the potential for unexpected benefits to media in Washington, D.C., Texas and Ohio, even as fundraising problems and uncertainties about how long the race will last leave questions about how big a bonanza it will be.
Consultants say the spectacular fundraising success of Barack Obama’s campaign could produce considerable additional ad spending; the Obama campaign confirmed speculation that some of it will be aimed at Hispanic voters. Still unclear is whether Hillary Clinton’s campaign can match the fundraising or if it will instead be forced to rely more on free media.
“The biggest factor is going to be Obama’s financial advantage. It’s huge and going to get bigger,” said Steve Murphy of the Murphy/Putman campaign planning firm, who handled Bill Richardson’ bid for the presidency until the New Mexico governor withdrew.
The Obama campaign raised $32 million in January, nearly double the amount raised by the Clinton campaign. The Clinton camp late last week said that since Super Tuesday, dollars have been pouring into the campaign.
While the total spending ahead isn’t yet certain, the potential is big. Chris Mattola, a GOP ad consultant who worked on Rudolph Giuliani’s campaign, said all-out primary fights in Ohio and Texas alone would normally run about $10 million per candidate, per state. The Obama campaign, trying to deliver a big blow, has been on the air for nearly two weeks in states holding primaries and caucuses through Tuesday, including those in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. It also has started advertising in Wisconsin and Hawaii. The Clinton campaign late last week launched a last-minute effort in Washington state, Maine and Nebraska, which were to hold primaries and caucuses over the weekend, and said it will launch spots Ohio and Texas this week.
But free media attention to the presidential races may lessen the Democratic candidates’ need for paid ads, especially if the GOP race ends before the March 4 Texas and Ohio votes.
Mitt Romney’s Feb. 7 withdrawal on the GOP side could help shift funding to Mike Huckabee’s campaign, or it could end the campaign swiftly, giving Sen. John McCain the GOP nomination; the effect likely will become apparent after Tuesday’s Virginia primary. The McCain campaign is advertising in Virginia, Maryland and D.C., but originally launched its ads expecting to face Mr. Romney. The Huckabee campaign is advertising in Virginia, too, and was running ads for Kansas’ caucus.
There was some speculation last week that final settlement of the GOP race could quickly lead to ads from Democrats and Democratic groups seeking to define the GOP candidate, much as the Bush campaign aired early ads accusing Democratic nominee John Kerry of being a flip-flopper.
Consultants say the Obama campaign’s relatively poor showing with Hispanics on Super Tuesday cries out for a change in message in advance of the Texas primary.
Mr. Murphy said the immigration focus of the campaign’s Hispanic ads doesn’t match up with the Hispanics’ main concerns about the economy, health care and crime. He also said that while there is sometimes a focus on Spanish-language messages, it’s the English-language message that needs to change.
He predicted the campaign would use its financial advantage to target Hispanics in San Antonio and El Paso, and said the campaign also needs to focus more advertising on making its case on the economy to middle-class and lower-middle-class families.
The Clinton campaign likely would make more appeals to younger voters, he said.

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