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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

September 24, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Presidential ads are everywhere — if you’re in a battleground state

Presidential advertising is off the charts this election, but we wouldn’t know it because Washington is not a battleground state. Here’s a glimpse of what we’re missing.

In 2008, I traveled to Iowa right about this point in the presidential campaign.

Washington Post compilation of total presidential ads run in battleground presidential states, April 10 to September 12, 2008 and 2012.

Iowa was a hotly contested state, eventually won by Barack Obama, 54%-44%, over John McCain. When I turned on the television my first evening in Iowa, I was immediately run over by ad after ad after ad after ad.

It was nonstop.

And there are even more this year.

We see nothing like this in Washington state, with the minor exception of when we catch campaign ads running on national TV outlets such as NBC, CNN, and Fox. But if we lived in Ohio, oh boy it would be overwhelming.

Washington Post graphic showing where presidential advertising in 2012 is occurring.

By this point in the campaign, every person in a battleground state — if they own a television or a computer — has seen hundreds of presidential ads. The presence of so many ads in these already-inundated states has three implications as we head into the final six weeks of the 2012 presidential campaign.

1. The effect of any new ads will be much smaller than would be the case for down-ballot races. What could new ads possibly tell informed voters that they don’t already know? It is unlikely that ads — what are called “paid media” because campaigns pay for them, unlike news coverage which is called “earned media” — will make much difference.

2. It will be interesting to see if Super PACs and the national Democratic and Republican committees move some of their advertising money to other hotly contested races — such as our races for governor and the 1st Congressional District. In these kind of contests, a huge infusion of money for advertising could really have an impact.

3. Which presidential candidate will be the first to go mostly positive in their advertising? The first to do so is the one who thinks he is winning.

Six weeks until election day.

Comments | More in National | Topics: battleground states, presidential advertising

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