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John McCain, Barack Obama fighting it out in the Rust Belt

July 30, 2008 |  7:57 am

Well, there's one Rust Belt industry doing all right these days: television advertising, judging by the record spending by Barack Obama, John McCain and the Republican National Committee.

A new report by the folks at the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project says the campaigns and the RNC aired more than 100,000 ads from June 3 to July 26, far outpacing the 77,000 ads John Kerry and George Bush put up over a similar period four years ago. The report says McCain's ads have been a bit nastier than Obama's, and that the Democratic National Committee -- which hasn't had nearly the fundraising success as the RNC -- so far has sat this one out.

And the significant nugget is where the ads have been airing. Here's the top 10 list, as tallied by TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, and analyzed by the Wisconsin Advertising Project:

Pennsylvania                    $10,319,000
Ohio                                        6,399,000
Michigan                                 6,009,000
Florida                                    5,028,000
Virginia                                   4,359,000
Wisconsin                              3,244,000
Missouri                                  2,846,000
Colorado                                 1,914,000
Georgia                                    1,824,000
Nevada                                     1,767,000

Note how heavily weighted the list is to the Midwest. In its analysis, the report says Democrats have the advantage this year, given how low Bush's approval ratings have sunk (think whale dung, and keep dropping). But to make it work, Obama has to impress upon voters that he is a credible candidate. McCain, conversely, has to persuade voters that Obama is not -- which helps explain the negative tilt in the tone of McCain's ads.

Interestingly, at this point, the report says, Obama is on the air alone in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana, Montana and Arkansas -- all red states. And with Florida fourth on the total spending list -- all of it in Obama dollars -- he's making his biggest push there. But he's alone in many local markets, too. "To date, Senator Obama is airing ads in 37 markets where McCain has not aired a single ad, while McCain is advertising in only two markets where Obama is not."

And another bit of good news for Democrats with whom the 2004 loss still echoes -- Obama ain't no Kerry (flashback offered at the end of the post).

"Barack Obama has exhibited much greater overall message discipline in his campaign than John Kerry did in 2004. One of the biggest critiques of the way John Kerry ran his campaign was that he dealt with too many different issues in his television ads. Barack Obama, by contrast, is dealing with fewer issues in each ad, presenting a clearer, more consistent message to the voting public. In 2004, Kerry talked about 25 different issues between June 3rd and July 26th, while during a comparable period Obama has only mentioned 14 issues."

Now, before the Democrats begin counting their chickens, they need to think back to what the presumptive lay of the land was three months before the start of the primary and caucus season. Remember Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani?

-- Scott Martelle