Published October 25, 2004
TOLEDO, Ohio – President Bush (search), Sen. John Kerry (search) and their political parties are spending nearly $40 million on TV ads in the final week of the presidential campaign as they adjust their strategies in a shrinking battleground.
It's a staggering amount, even considering the unprecedented level of advertising in the presidential race this year. By Nov. 2, the candidates and their parties will have spent more than $400 million on TV and radio ads since the air wars started in March. Independent liberal and conservative groups will have spent at least $100 million.
Shifting their resources and their priorities, Bush is scaling back advertising in historically Democratic Maine, while Kerry is not slated to run any TV commercials in GOP-leaning Colorado this week. It's a signal that both are all but abandoning their bids to put those states back in their win columns. Four years ago, Bush won Colorado and Democrat Al Gore (search) won Maine.
Kerry, in a show of confidence, also is cutting his spending in Michigan and Oregon, both won by Gore in 2000.
The president plans to roll out new ads focusing on the War on Terror and the economy, and close his campaign with an emotional appeal for his re-election, aides said. Kerry plans a final series of ads in which he offers messages hopeful about the future and sharply critical of Bush.
In the final week, Bush, Kerry and their parties are to continue focusing the bulk of their money and attention on nine toss-up states: Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada and Minnesota.
Overall, Bush and the Republican National Committee plan to run about $18 million worth of advertisements for the next week, while Kerry and his party are slated to spend roughly $21 million.
Of that, both sides are spending about $4.5 million apiece in Florida, at least $2.5 million in Ohio and $2 million in Pennsylvania. All three electorally rich states have many media markets, including some of the most expensive.
Meanwhile, anti-Kerry groups are scheduled to spend another $12 million on ads meant to help Bush, far more than the $3 million or so Democratic groups are planning to spend.
The candidates and their parties still could add money to their buys as they shift resources in the final week.
Polls show the race extraordinarily tight and both sides are massaging their state-by-state strategies to determine how to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the White House.
Bush has been trying to make a play for Maine, but strategists for both campaigns say Kerry holds the edge there, so it makes sense for the president to divert resources to more competitive states. The Republican is only running a trickle of ads in that state, which Gore won by 5 percentage points.
Kerry's campaign has canceled plans for him to visit Colorado on Tuesday and is scheduled to pull its ads from the state this week, although the Democratic National Committee is to remain on the air there.
Polls show the race close in Colorado, where Bush won by 9 percentage points in 2000, but not close enough for a Democrat to win, especially when so many swing states are in play.
Tad Devine, a Kerry strategist, said the campaign still may buy airtime in the state later this week, and may increase its advertising in other states depending on what the Republicans do.
"We all want to see what the lay off the land is in the final days," he said. "We may have to shift some of this around."
But for now, Kerry is slated to scale back his ads in Michigan, which Gore won by 5 percentage points in 2000.
It's a surprising show of confidence, given that polls show the race has tightened and Kerry still plans to visit the state at least once, and possibly more, before Nov. 2. Bush, too, will be in the state, and he and his party are saturating the airwaves with at least $1 million in ads.
Kerry also is pulling back his advertising in Oregon, following Bush's decision last week to cut his advertising nearly in half in an acknowledgment that he is unlikely to win there. Bush lost Oregon by 6,765 votes in 2000. He has no plans to return there before the election.
Devine said the campaign thinks it is in strong shape in both Michigan and Oregon.
And, Bush is scaling back his advertising in West Virginia, two weeks after Kerry stopped airing commercials in most media markets in the state. Bush won the state four years ago and continues to hold the edge there.