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Ads flood Denver airwaves with new fervor

- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2008

DENVER | The Mile High City was awash in political advertising this week, but that had more to do with the situation in Colorado than the arrival of the Democratic National Convention.

State advertising executives said campaign ads dominate the airwaves like never before, thanks to Colorado's newly minted status as a swing state. Both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns have said the state is pivotal to their respective successes.

Combine that with the open Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Wayne Allard, two open House seats and a ballot full of high-profile initiatives, and you've got a recipe for nonstop swaying.

"Colorado is now in play like it hasn't been before," said Mark Cornetta, president and general manager of KUSA-TV, the NBC-TV affiliate, and KTVD-TV in Denver. "The political advertising has been on fire since July, and I don't see it stopping until November."

Most station managers said they didn't register a spike in political advertising for the week of the convention, noting that contracts are usually for several consecutive weeks.

"We did have a lot of political advertising on the air this week, but we also had a lot on the air last week," said Jim Sieke, general sales manager for KMGH-TV, the local ABC-TV affiliate.

Many party committees and candidates officially refrain from holding fundraisers during their convention week, preferring instead to use the time to booster party unity and enthusiasm.

But they also know that with focus on Denver, convention week is a vital time to raise awareness for their candidates, which can translate into contributions.

"I don't know if you can say there are more ads this week because of the convention," said Matt Miller, spokesman with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). "... They'll be more ads next week than this week - it'll ramp up every week until the election."

At the same time, he said, the national attention Denver received after being awarded the convention may have brought the city to the attention of national advertising campaigns.

"I can tell you we're having a record year overall," Mr. Sieke said.

Mr. Cornetta said political advertising has jumped by as much as 50 percent since 2004, the last presidential year. Campaign ads constitute about 20 percent to 25 percent of most Denver television stations' advertising time, managers said.

And it's only expected to grow. Some candidates, notably Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer, don't plan on running campaign ads until after Labor Day.

The bulk of this week's ads appeared to be the product of political independent-expenditure committees, also known as 527s. There were several criticizing both Mr. Schaffer and his opponent, Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, as well as some spots targeting unions.

"It seemed to me like the 527 groups on both sides bumped up their advertising in the last week or so," said Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams, who's also running Mr. Schaffer's campaign.

"They got very heavy about a week or so ago."

Apparently viewers noticed.

"I just hung up with a woman who was complaining about the McCain ads," said Mr. Cornetta. "She told me she was switching stations unless we stopped running them. I had to explain that those are federally regulated, [which means] we have to run them."

Kelley Harp, the campaign manager for Amendment 47, the right-to-work initiative, said his campaign hasn't launched any advertising yet. It just seems like it, given the plethora of union-related spots.

"I didn't notice any spike for the convention," said Mr. Harp. "Having said that, I have [a digital video recorder], so I don't pay attention to ads."

Sean Lengell contributed to this report.