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Ad spending in Florida: millions by Barack Obama, zilch by John McCain

August 4, 2008 | 12:12 pm

Deep in a Washington Post story over the weekend on the presidential campaign in Florida was this intriguing detail: Barack Obama has spent more than $5 million on television ads in the state since early June, compared with exactly zero spending on such spots by John McCain.

Drawing on data compiled by the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin, the story goes on to note:

"Equally striking is where Obama spent the money. He aired more ads in Pensacola -- the conservative Panhandle city where Navy pilots, including McCain, are trained -- than in Miami. Democrats in 2000 and 2004 ceded the Panhandle to Republicans, not airing any ads there, said the advertising project's director, Ken Goldstein.

"'I never understood that,' Goldstein said. 'Those are areas that are going to go Republican, but it's not like the electoral college. Every African American voter you bring out in the Panhandle offsets a Cuban voter in Miami' likely to vote Republican."

Obama, of course, had to play catch up in Florida once he clinched the Democratic presidential nomination. He refrained from actively campaigning in the state before its January primary because the contest's scheduling violated national party rules.

And, as a New York Times story in May detailed, many Jewish voters -- traditionally Democratic -- had deep-seated doubts about him, especially his commitment to Israel.

As part of the Obama effort to compete in Florida, it is one of several states targeted by his campaign for an aggressive ground game; so far, about 200 paid operatives have been dispatched to the state.

McCain has a variety of built-in advantages in the fight for the state's 27 electoral votes, one reason his aides don't seem overly concerned about having ceded the airwaves up to now to Obama or polling that has shown Florida up for grabs.

After a difference of 537 votes -- out of almost 6 million cast -- put Florida in George W. Bush's column in the 2000 election and gave him the presidency, the state trended Republican over the next few years. Helped by Jeb Bush's popular tenure as governor, his brother carried Florida by a solid 5 percentage points in his 2004 reelection bid.

But as the Post story spells out, there's a new dynamic at play in the Sunshine State -- a cratering economy.

-- Don Frederick