Obama, McCain TV Ad Spending By State

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jul 30, 2008 at 14:45


Something called the Wisconsin Advertising Project just sent me this useful information over email. You can read the full report here (PDF). In thousands of dollars, here is the amount of money each campaign has spent on television advertisements from June 3rd through July 26th:

Campaign TV ad spending by state, June 3rd through July 26th
State Obama McCain Margin
Alaska $88 $0 +$88
Colorado $802 $1,104 -$302
Florida $5,028 $0 +$5,028
Georgia $1,824 $0 +$1,824
Indiana $1,268 $0 +$1,268
Iowa $700 $946 -$246
Michigan $2,240 $2,655 -$415
Minnesota $70 $575 -$505
Missouri $1,246 $1,600 -$356
Montana $136 $0 +$136
North Carolina $1,620 $0 +$1,620
North Dakota $157 $71 +$86
New Hampshire $391 $342 +$49
New Mexico $260 $440 -$180
Nevada $633 $1,134 -$501
Ohio $2,486 $2,568 -$82
Pennsylvania $3,937 $4,602 -$665
Virginia $2,660 $1,509 +$1,151
West Virginia $166 $414 -$248
Wisconsin $1,198 $1,426 -$228

In its famous online strategy briefing, the McCain campaign claimed that Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington were swing states. Clearly, that was a lie, since the report was released on June 9th, at which point McCain had begun his advertising in every single state listed above, except New Hampshire and Virginia. They never had any intention of running ads in those states. Kind of makes you wonder if the McCain campaign will tell the truth about anything.

More thoughts on these numbers in the extended entry.

Chris Bowers :: Obama, McCain TV Ad Spending By State
Lots of interesting observations to be had in these numbers:

  • Obama is clearly absolutely serious about winning Indiana, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, as he spent $10M in ads in those states during a five week period running from June 20th to July 26th. I don't think the Georgia spending is a good idea, given that he isn't closing the gap there. Otherwise, it seems smart and effective.

  • Obama is contesting a much broader range of states than McCain. Of the twenty states listed here, Obama is competing in all twenty, while McCain is only competing in fourteen. The one possible exception in Minnesota, where Obama's tiny ad buy is effectively the same as not competing in the state.

  • McCain is using a smaller concentration of states to stay ahead in states where he is competing. Of the fourteen states where he is running ads, McCain has outspent Obama in eleven of them.

  • McCain's ads are spread out over a longer period of time. One thing not shown here is that McCain went up on the air earlier than Obama, usually by at least twelve days, in all of the states where he is advertising. This means that McCain's narrow spending advantages probably mean fewer total ads since June 20th, when Obama began to air ads across these twenty states.

  • McCain is on the defensive in Virginia. The one exception to the bullet point directly above this one is Virginia, where McCain only went on the air on July 8th, eighteen days after Obama began airing ads in the state. Clearly, McCain now feels vulnerable in Virginia, even though his campaign once dismissed it as a solid red state.

  • It is also notable that McCain is spending money in North Dakota, which shows that state is clearly in play.

Cool stuff. What do you see in these numbers?


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CO and NV (4.00 / 4)
are the other part of McCain's firewall (where the wall is crumbling). That's apparent also by the high frequency of visits he's made to these two states. He was in both of them yesterday and today. I think Obama should up the spending in CO because that state is not in the bag yet but I think we have a better chance there than in VA still.

Ohio the ultimate swing state... (0.00 / 0)
Interesting that both candidates are spending about the same here... Ohio $2,486 $2,568 -$82


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GOTV Spending (4.00 / 2)
Also, remember that these figures ignore the amount of time and money Obama's campaign has spent registering voters, organizing supporters, and building infrastructure.  Considering he is overwhelming McCain on this front it will be interesting how that changes things in November.  While organization and enthusiasm cannot win Obama more than a couple percentage points in these states, the cumulative effect is likely to push him ahead where the polling is close, such as NV, VA, or FL.  If there is one thing his campaign probably learned during the primary, simply throwing money away by saturating the airwaves can only get you so far (see OH & PA)

McCain spending $0 on ads in Florida? (0.00 / 0)
That's almost impossible to believe; surely he's been running ads there.  Is that just a typo?

No typo (0.00 / 0)
No McCain ads in Florida.

[ Parent ]
Well, I checked the link... (4.00 / 1)
...and it appears to be true:

Although Florida was the pivotal state in the 2000 presidential election, John McCain has not aired a single ad there since June 3rd. Senator Obama has aired over 7,000 ads in Florida since becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee and has spent more money in Florida than in any other state.

Pretty baffling.  I'm not sure what to make of that.  McCain is still slightly ahead in the polls there.  If Obama has already outspent McCain by $5 million to none in Florida and still isn't ahead, should we be significantly more pessimistic about it than the other big swing states?  Or is it still too early to tell?


[ Parent ]
well, he has been ahead in some FL polls (4.00 / 1)
and electoral-vote.com, for example, has it tied in the average of the most recent polls.

So I think we should conclude the ads are good.

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[ Parent ]
Good points here and below as well (0.00 / 0)
No primary in FL definitely meant that Obama had some catching up to do in terms of getting ads up, and the polling trends have demonstrated some positive effects from that.

Still, ZERO ads in FL by McCain can't last for much longer.  Will he be able to open up a real lead there once they put some money into it?  I guess that's what his campaign is counting on.


[ Parent ]
this graph explains it: (4.00 / 1)
http://www.pollster.com/polls/...

McCain was ahead in every poll through mid-June before Obama's ads starting making a dent. McCain can't afford to spend in expensive states he is/was leading.

One benefit of the long Dem. primary is that Obama has already run countless ads in most U.S. states but Florida (and Michigan) are exceptions because of the uncontested primaries there.


[ Parent ]
No, I saw that figure elsewhere (4.00 / 1)
Obama has spent more on TV in Florida than either of them has spent in any other state and McCain hasn't spend a penny. For some reason, McCain seems to think his small lead there is safe. Obviously if Obama steals it, he wins big.

McCain is focused on Penn, Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri. I think Penn is so solidly blue these days that I can't imagine he continues to contest it as such a high level. Same for Wisconsin. Michigan, though, is cause for concern, especially if McCain picks Mittens to run with him. Michigan seems to be the best chance right now for him to steal a Kerry state, and it's a big one.

McCain is doing what he has no choice but to do, to focus his money on the industrial Midwest and the South West and to hope and pray that the red states come back into the fold.


[ Parent ]
Frankly (4.00 / 2)
the Florida imbalance was needed to introduce Obama into the State since he didn't campaign there in the primaries.

The McCain people seem awfully confident about Florida....


[ Parent ]
$ Amount vs. Percentage (4.00 / 1)
The spending differences are more revealing when you look at them in terms of percent difference instead of dollar amount. For instance, although the dollar amount that McCain has outspent Obama in PA seems significant, the percentage isn't (16%). Furthermore, in a more expensive ad market like PA, it would take Obama very little in terms of new ad buys to even up or overtake McCain. In the meantime, in Iowa, the difference in terms of percent is more significant (35%) in favor of McCain (even though the dollar amount is less than in PA), and Obama would have to significantly increase ad buys in this less expensive (relatively) ad market to match McCain. Not a big deal, but a better way to look at the data because ad markets are truly an apples-to-oranges comparison.  

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Obama already pretty familiar there (0.00 / 0)
He ran lots of ads in PA and also in IA, I think.  He's in the Medwest this week, so maybe he will run ads there, but right now I thik he's ahead in IA.  

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[ Parent ]
support up and down the ticket (4.00 / 1)
obama is spending money in states he probably knows he can't win to help the whole ticket top to bottom, something clinton never really tried to do.

you can't carry out a legislative agenda without a congress that is sympathetic to your policies, helping others get elected will go a long way in creating loyalty when votes are hard to make on future legislation.  


Correlation (4.00 / 1)
I just did a very very crude correlation run:

I took your June 6 numbers for those states, and then took your July 27th numbers for those states, and looked at the movement for Obama within them.  Then I correlated that to the difference in advertising money spent in each state.  There was an R of about .13, which is very low.  Obviously this doesn't adjust for population or anything, just wanted to see if it was glaring.


Population-adjusted figures (4.00 / 1)
When I was reading this, I thought population-adjusted figures might be more useful.  So I did some math, and tossed the relevant numbers, with commentary, into a diary.  

Thanks! (0.00 / 0)
Just ran a quick correlation on those numbers, and the correlation doubled to .23, which means there's about a .06 R^2 in the change in the poll numbers.  Given how much variance there is in polling, that's not small at all.  Obviously still doesn't explain a lot, but 6% of the movement in polls isn't nothing.

[ Parent ]
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