Monday, August 18, 2008

Is there an Obama strategy?

TPM picks up on an interesting recent trend in the presidential campaign:
The McCain campaign has outspent the Obama camp by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some cases by as much as a million dollars or more, in virtually all of the nearly dozen battleground states where both campaigns are up on the air, according to a firm that tracks national advertising.
I can attest to this. I live in a battleground state, and the TV ads during the Olympics (other than the promos for that Christian Slater "Memento"-rip-off show) consist of nothing but McCain and Obama ads, and there seems to be roughly two McCain ads for every Obama one. The McCain ads are also much meaner.

This presents us with a small mystery. Why is McCain outspending Obama in the battleground states, when Obama is raising about $2 for every $1 that McCain raises? Some may dismiss this as Dukakis redux. But I don't think that's what's going on.

Part of the answer is that Obama is also spending in non-battleground states like Georgia. He may not win there, but he may force McCain to defend normally friendly territory.

Another part of the answer is that Obama's playing a form of rope-a-dope. It's still relatively early for a massive advertising blitz. The conventional wisdom is that voters really don't pay much attention to campaigns until after Labor Day. McCain is buring through cash rapidly to make Obama an unacceptable choice for voters. So far, the effect has been pretty anemic; Obama has a modest but consistent lead in national polls and in most of the swing states. The idea is that McCain will be pretty much all out of attacks and cash by October (when voters traditionally start paying attention), at which point Obama brings the hammer down with an ad blitz and a voter turnout organization like this country has never seen before.

I have no idea if this is what's going on in Obama HQ, but it seems consistent with his style during the primary season. He knows that going negative carries its own risks, and he'd rather stay away from it unless it proves absolutely necessary. And while many on the left want him to tear McCain apart, it just might not be necessary to do that, at least not yet.


Anonymous said...

This is a dangerous game for the Obama campaign to play, but there is one reason I can think of for McCain outspending Obama at this point in time (especially relative to what each candidate has raised). With McCain accepting federal matching funds, he has to spend all his primary money prior to the end of his convention. In essence, he is forced to be an aggressive spender.

Obama, on the other hand, can attempt to more evenly distribute his money, but at the risk of being defined by the other campaign in the interim. The Obama campaign has to be hoping that the general public hasn't started paying attention yet. Then again, it was this time four years ago when another Democrat was being defined by some disgruntled boatmen.

Anonymous said...

I read that McCain is burning through money because of the upcoming deadline for federal financing. It's still not clear if McCain will be allowed to ditch public financing as the GOP candidate.