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GOP, Dems Already Firing TV Ads At Charlotte Viewers

As President Obama gives his State of the Union address tonight, Charlotte area viewers will see an attack ad funded by the Republican National Committee. The GOP has yet to settle on a candidate to challenge Obama, but general election campaign messages are already blaring from TVs in Charlotte. As recently as 2004, it would have been unheard of for the Republican Party to spend money on TV ads in North Carolina this early in the election season. The state was a shoo-in for Republican presidential candidates. "I mean it was basically a true part of the Republican Southern base," says Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer. But that changed in 2008 when Obama narrowly won North Carolina and neighboring Virginia. Holding onto those states is key to Obama's strategy in 2012. Bringing the Democratic National Convention to Charlotte is just one part of that. Political ads are another. The Obama campaign has spent nearly $90,000 airing ads in the Charlotte market that defend the president's record on energy policy, according to a tracking firm called Smart Media. Now the Republican National Committee is countering with an ad blaming the nation's economic struggles on Obama's "failed leadership." "There would have been nobody that would have expected to see the kind of media buys that we're going to see in Charlotte," says Bitzer. "And this is just kind of the appetizer for what's going to be a very full course coming in about nine months or so." Bitzer says it's unusual for attack ads from the opposing party to coincide with a State of the Union Address, but the Obama campaign has signaled its intent to take advantage of the televised speech. The Republican National Committee is airing its attack on networks in three markets key to President Obama's re-election: Charlotte; Norfolk, Virginia and Grand Rapids, Michigan.