This presidential race has already smashed all previous records for TV advertising, according to the political ad analysis group. Since the beginning of June, 915,000 TV ads have been run, far more than the 634,000 aired during a similar time frame in 2008.
So far this month, the Obama campaign and its allies have bested Mitt Romney's campaign and his coterie of well-financed super PACs, nonprofits, trade associations and party organizations. Obama and friends ran 112,730 ads from Oct. 1 to Oct. 21, whereas Romney and friends ran just 97,407 -- despite the Republicans outspending the Democrats $87 million to $77 million.
"One reason Obama has been able to win the air war in most media markets is that his campaign is funding most of its own advertising, which entitles his campaign to the lowest rate charged by local television stations," Travis Ridout, a co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, said in a statement. "By contrast, many ads supporting Romney are paid for by outside groups, which must pay whatever the market will bear to get their ads on the air."
Data released by the Wesleyan Media Project bears this out. Independent conservative groups like the super PACs Restore Our Future and American Crossroads ran almost exactly the same number of ads as the Romney campaign did in the first 21 days of October, but spent an additional $17 million. The Obama campaign, meanwhile, was responsible for more than 90 percent of the ads airing in support of the president's reelection.
Obama's advantage extended to 13 of the top 15 swing-state media markets. Pro-Romney ads outnumbered pro-Obama ads only in Columbus, Ohio, and Norfolk, Va., and the gap was fewer than 200 ads in both markets. Obama ads dominated the airwaves in major markets like Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla., Reno, Nev., and Washington, D.C. In each of those five markets, Obama and his allies ran over 1,000 more ads than Romney and his allies during the first three weeks of October.
The Wesleyan Media Project report also found that the tone of advertising is far more negative than in previous presidential elections. That negativity wasn't exclusive to the super PACs and other independent groups, but was also embraced by the Obama campaign. In October, 73 percent of all Obama campaign ads were negative compared to just 36 percent from the Romney campaign. The majority of Romney's ads were contrast spots, using a negative mention of Obama to highlight a positive note on Romney.
Independent groups remained the most negative, with 95 percent of ads from the Republican groups and 88 percent from the Democratic groups going on the attack in October.