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Obama to debut TV infomercial
Question of the Day
HARRISONBURG, Va. | Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama will showcase his campaign war chest Wednesday night in a 30-minute commercial to air before the World Series, spending about $1 million per spot to communicate directly with viewers across several networks at the same time.
With six days to go until Election Day, the front-runner is badly outspending his Republican rival Sen. John McCain on television ads across a map of battleground states. The Republican National Committee has been forced to go on the defensive in traditionally safe states such as West Virginia and Montana.
Mr. Obama ran 1,350 ads to Mr. McCain's 331 on Sunday in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to Nielsen Media Research. Nielsen reported, however, that Mr. McCain increased his ads in those states, running 1,353 to Mr. Obama's 1,528. From Oct. 6 through Monday, Mr. Obama ran 64,917 ads to Mr. McCain's 25,630 in those seven battleground states, Nielsen calculated.
The Obama campaign would reveal few details about the 8 p.m. ad purchase, only calling it a "program" that would offer "specifics" on his plans.
"With this historic election only a week away - and John McCain's angry, desperate attacks mounting by the day - we want to make sure every voter heading into the voting booth knows exactly what Barack Obama would do to bring about fundamental change as president," spokesman Bill Burton said.
Larry J. Sabato, political science professor at the University of Virginia, noted that this gap in funding, which the half-hour buy reflects, was partially the result of prohibitions Mr. McCain himself championed on "soft money," previously unregulated funds spent by political parties and other groups on behalf of candidates.
Under current laws, the Republican National Committee can help Mr. McCain by paying for some TV and radio ads. But "soft money"-funded outside groups could have helped Mr. McCain and fellow Republican candidates fill the gap in previous years.
"Obama's extra money is the icing on the cake for the Democrat in a year when almost everything has moved in his direction," Mr. Sabato said. "Obama's money advantage has unquestionably forced McCain to scramble furiously around the country, nailing Jell-O to the wall, trying to lock down red states that keep turning purple once he leaves."
The spot will air on Fox, CBS, NBC and the cable network MSNBC. But ABC will go with its regular programming, dramatic comedy "Pushing Daisies." ABC is doing a promotion, telling viewers they can "get political with the other networks" or watch the newest episode of the series.
Republicans mocked the Obama spot, a tactic last used by billionaire candidate H. Ross Perot in 1992 in his failed independent bid for the presidency. Mr. Obama has outspent Mr. McCain, having raised more than $600 million for his presidential bid while Mr. McCain agreed to take $84 million in public funds.
The McCain campaign said Mr. Obama's stockpile of cash and ubiquitous TV ads underscore the Democrat's broken promise to use public financing. McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds stressed that Mr. McCain has enough cash on hand to remain competitive in the closing days of the race.
Mr. Obama also is maximizing his TV time. When Obama ads pop up on television, viewers with digital video recorders are given an option to click through to the Obama infomercial channel that plays his longer, specific and positive spots on a loop.
On the stump Wednesday, Mr. Obama continued to give his "closing argument" and saying he needs to make sure people actually vote.
He pushed through a morning rally in Chester, Pa., despite near-freezing rain, rallying 9,000. Mr. McCain, meanwhile, canceled his nearby outdoor event owing to the weather.
His campaign also posted a Web video urging supporters to "ask for the day off" to volunteer and "make calls, knock on doors, get out the vote."
"You can't make history" from your couch or computer, the spot tells supporters.
About the Author
Steven A Miller
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