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McCain ratchets up attack ads

- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2008

Being dramatically outspent by Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. John McCain went almost 100 percent negative in his campaign commercials last week.

A new report by the Wisconsin Advertising Project finds Mr. McCain, Republicans' presidential nominee, is almost exclusively playing defense, trying to hold on to the states that made up President Bush's winning 2004 Electoral College coalition.

But even in those states, Mr. Obama is far outspending him, putting Virginia in play with $2.1 million spent between Sept. 28 and Oct. 4, outspending Mr. McCain in Ohio by $2.2 million to $1.7 million and in Florida by $2.2 million to Mr. McCain's $659,000. Mr. Obama also is dominating in North Carolina, outspending Mr. McCain by eight-to-one.

"Ten of the 15 states where both candidates are advertising were won by Bush in the 2004 election," said Ken Goldstein, director of the project and a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "The campaign is being played on the Republican side of the field this year."

In another sign of trouble for the McCain campaign, nearly 100 percent of its ads that week were negative, up from an average of 73 percent for the campaign as a whole. Mr. Obama, meanwhile, was running 34 percent negative ads, well below his campaign average of 61 percent.

Of the 15 states where both campaigns are advertising, Mr. McCain is only winning the spending battle in Minnesota, which went for Democrat John Kerry in 2004, and Iowa, which went for Mr. Bush.

The top markets for ads are Las Vegas and Denver, each of which saw about 2,000 ads aired during that week.

Third-party groups are playing a much less prominent role this year compared with 2004, when Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and others nearly dominated the on-air back-and-forth. The study found Vets for Freedom playing the largest role that week, spending nearly $1 million in California.

The data also shows that Mr. McCain slowed, but did not end, his campaign ads during the days he claimed to have suspended his campaign to help focus on congressional efforts to craft a Wall Street bailout package.

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