Candidates’ Spending Spree Could Get Tiresome

Michael Bitzer

Both the Romney and Obama campaigns raked in substantial amounts of money for May. For Obama, it was $60 million, while Romney and the Republicans were able to collect more than $76 million, the first time the GOP had topped the president and the Democrats in fundraising.

A constant question asked when we talk about money is, where does it all go? According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 2008’s presidential contest saw $1.6 billion spent; 39 percent, or $653 million, went to media costs, which included broadcast, internet, and print, along with media consultants and “miscellaneous” media. 

The second largest percentage (31 percent, or $522.4 million) went to administrative costs, such as salaries and benefits, travel, postage and shipping, rent, supplies, equipment, and other daily expenses. 

So far, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that $91.2 million has gone to media expenditures for the 2012 presidential campaign, with only administrative costs ($123.2 million) seeing a bigger part of the expenditures. 

$91.2 million may seem like a lot for battling on the air, but consider a battleground state like North Carolina and the challenges the Obama and Romney campaigns will face in conducting their advertising campaign.

Stretching from Manteo on the coast to Murphy in the mountains, North Carolina covers 474 miles and 10 different media markets.  The below map gives some idea of the different markets that cover the state:

While the most notable markets — Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and the Triad — cover a substantial part of the state, it is also out-of-state markets that candidates have to advertise in to reach Tar Heel voters.

For example, to cover most of the mountains, candidates have to go to Greenville and Spartanburg in the upstate of South Carolina.  In the northeastern corner of the state, candidates go into the Norfolk, Virginia, market to reach those voters.

In recent analyses of the hottest TV markets (based on advertising points and also expenditures) for the presidential contest, five North Carolina markets — both in-state and out-of-state — made the list out of the top eleven:

  1. Norfolk-Portsmouth, VA
  2. Columbus, OH
  3. Cedar Rapids, IA
  4. Roanoke-Lynchburg, VA
  5. Charlotte, NC
  6. Richmond, VA
  7. Greensboro-High Point, NC
  8. Cincinnati, OH
  9. Des Moines, IA
  10. Greenville-Spartanburg, SC
  11. Raleigh-Durham, NC

To see the money rolling into these media markets this early reminds me of what happens with Christmas advertising — we start to see Santa well before Halloween nowadays.  With the traditionally accepted start of the general campaign starting on Labor Day, we shouldn’t be surprised that candidates are coming out with their own versions of tricks and treats for the voters.

The question is: will we be sick and scared of their candy by the time Halloween rolls around?


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