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Romney ad, with
Another Romney failure: Trying to make "OIW" into a catchphrase.
I culled the advertising spending in the battleground states, as compiled by the National Journal. I included the biggest spenders—the Obama campaign and Priorities USA for the Democrats, and the Romney campaign, Republican National Committee, the Romney Super PAC Restore our Future, Karl Rove's Crossroads, and the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity.

Before we delve into some of the highlights, remember that spending and actual output were two different things. In fact, Republicans ended up paying up to five times the amount for the same ad that the Obama campaign was buying.

Thoughts and musings on these numbers, below the fold.

  • Florida, Ohio and Virginia all saw nine-figures in presidential advertising. Ohio came close to hitting $200 million. In all three states, Republicans significantly outspent Team Blue, all to no avail.
  • In fact, Republicans outspent Democrats in every state except for New Hampshire, where the good guys had a $100,000-edge. In all the battlegrounds combined, they outspent us by a crazy $115 million.
  • For all the talk about playing in Minnesota, those assholes lied. They didn't play in the state.
  • Ha ha ha! Look at Michigan! You can't say those idiots didn't try to make it competitive. But the Democrats didn't bite in a state that they won by 9.5 points.
  • Republicans doubled up Democrats in Wisconsin, which they then lost by by nearly seven points. The state was never close.
  • $900 million was spent in the battlegrounds. I couldn't readily find updated numbers on national ad spending, and there were smaller players here and there I didn't include in the totals, so the total number is closer to $1 billion.
  • This still cracks me up.
  • Republicans nearly doubled up Democratic spending in North Carolina, only to win the state by two points. Now some of you might think that Obama could've won it had he spent more money, but the numbers above (and in Senate races) show that all this money was absolutely wasted.
  • It makes me happy to think of all the conservative billionaires who pissed away hundreds of millions on this losing cause. It might be chump change for them, but they didn't become billionaires by pissing their money away.
  • Saying the money was wasted isn't the same as saying that it shouldn't have been spent. If one side has uncontested access to the airwaves, that side will win. However, as long as you can reasonably rebut the opposition, those ads just became an easy-to-ignore jumble of nastiness, and voters tune them out. And once they do that, you have to win on other grounds—your campaign's meta message, your ground game, and events that cut through the clutter like (as we learned this year) debates.
  • The proof for the above bullet point? The fact that the only thing that really moved the polling numbers were the conventions and the first three debates:

    Look at the Virginia trendlines, per HuffPost's polling aggregator:

    Virginia trendlines, Obama v Romney, showing Obama rise well before Hurricane Sandy.

Gazillions were being spent on television ads, but in the stretch run the numbers only budged after the first debate, when both Obama cratered and Romney consolidated his base, the vice-presidential debate, where Joe Biden stopped Obama's descent, and the second presidential debate, when the first-debate trends were reversed.

Heck, even the famed Obama statisticians were more concerned with their voter contacts and new voter registration numbers than whether this ad or that one was resonating with any target group.

There's no doubt that the Obama team was far smarter in how it spent its ad dollars than the other guys.

The [Obama] team’s calculations showed that it would get the most bang for its buck in some strange places: the Family Channel, the Food Network and the Hallmark Channel, among others. On broadcast TV, the campaign went for more daytime programs and late-night entertainment shows than Republican nominee Mitt Romney did.

The Obama team was on 60 channels during one week near the end of the campaign, compared with 18 for the Romney operation during the same period, according to cable advertising data.

In a close election, targeting (and winning) certain niche demographics could've very much made the difference. But on a macro level, it's clear that there were diminishing results with television advertising. DVRs and the ability to tune out attack ads will hopefully continue this trend. Elections shouldn't be decided by 30-second spots.

But in the short-term, that likely means even more advertising spending, even earlier in the cycle, as campaigns seek to squeeze out some advantage from what still remains the most glamorous (and lucrative, for consultants) of campaign activities.

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