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Ad Advantage May Be Responsible For Obama Bump


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

There is a new interpretation of President Obama's bounce in the polls following the Republican and Democratic conventions. While everybody focused on the pageantry and the speeches, the Obama campaign was pounding Republican Mitt Romney with an onslaught of TV ads. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: For a race where both sides seem awash in cash, these numbers are surprisingly lopsided. In the two weeks from August 26th to September 8th, the Obama campaign and its allies outspent the Romney team on television 21 million to 13 million dollars. And during those two weeks, one of the places where Romney was so heavily outspent was the battleground state of Ohio.

MITT ROMNEY: Thank you so very much. What a welcome, Cincinnati. Thank you so much.


OVERBY: Romney brought his running mate, Paul Ryan, to Cincinnati right after the GOP convention. But meanwhile the campaign and its allies bought fewer than 1,400 ads in Ohio. That's less than one-third of the number bought by pro-Obama groups. Travis Ridout is a political scientist at Washington State University. And he's a coordinator of the Wesleyan Media Project, which did this analysis.

TRAVIS RIDOUT: Obama was even putting ads into really minor media markets in, say, West Virginia, that might only reach a county or two in Ohio.

OVERBY: Ridout's analysis shows that nine out of 10 pro-Obama ads came from the campaign itself.

RIDOUT: It appears they want to target every area of that state, which was something that the people running ads for Romney were not doing.

OVERBY: And he says the Democrats didn't let up, not even when Romney's candidacy was the center of attention.

RIDOUT: Now, when the Republicans were holding their convention, the Democrats were up just as heavily on the air as they were during their own convention. So definitely a different strategy from the political parties.

OVERBY: In this election, as before, it's hard to overstate the political importance of Ohio. Paul Beck is a professor emeritus of political science at the Ohio State University.

PAUL BECK: No Republican has won the White House without Ohio. Now there's a first time, of course, for everything.

OVERBY: And it's clear that Ohio is still up for grabs. But the TV battle was just as lopsided in other states critical to a Romney victory. In Florida, 3,400 ads for Romney, 5,200 for Mr. Obama. And in Virginia, 1,900 ads compared to 7,100 ads. Nearly three-quarters of the ads for Romney came from outside groups - the superPACs Restore Our Future and American Crossroads, and especially from the social welfare group Americans For Prosperity, which has the backing of the billionaires David and Charles Koch.

The Romney campaign declined to comment on its advertising. Beck says the spending patterns are consistent with the way the two campaigns have proceeded all along.

BECK: The Obama campaign was in a sense front-loading its spending, directed at trying to define Romney, trying to define the issues on which it wants to wage the campaign.

OVERBY: Meanwhile, he points out, the Romney campaign has been building up a war chest of historic proportions - nearly $169 million as of September 1.

BECK: The Romney people, I think, are kind of waiting and will devote a lot of their money to the post-convention phase of the campaign.

OVERBY: And now it appears the Obama ad supremacy is ending, as Romney ads start ramping up.

Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.