The ongoing skirmish between President Obama and an energy interest group offers an early look at the president's advertising strategy.
A TV spot from the American Energy Alliance (AEA), which hit the president on gas prices, started airing the week of March 26 across eight states. The 30-second spot blames the president for the recent spike in prices at the pump. After a week of letting the attack go unanswered, Obama countered the AEA with an ad of his own in every media market the industry group went up in, with the exception of Jacksonville, Fla. and four markets AEA bought in Michigan.
This week, according to media buying data from SMG-Delta, the Obama ad buy will surpass the AEA buy in certain markets where there's a core constituency of Democrats. The mix of markets and states where the Obama camp is responding with the most firepower reveal some of the Obama camp's strategy for the fall.
1. Orlando, Fla.: Obama spent $660,000 countering the AEA ad here, and that's just a down payment on what's to come. The president won Florida in 2008 by dropping some $39 million on TV ads, according to an estimate by National Journal. Those resources helped boost Democratic turnout in Orlando and the nearby Osceola County. The Obama camp doesn't want those numbers rolling backward. In the last two weeks, it purchased 445 GRPs to counter the 245 GRPs AEA averaged in its run.
2. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Winning the Hawkeye State is crucial for Obama's reelection strategy and to do that he'll need the youth vote in Iowa City to come out for him again. Cedar Rapids TV covers the University of Iowa college town, so it's no surprise that the Obama camp made its biggest buy by GRPs (458) of the last two weeks there.
3. Richmond-Petersburg, Va.: Obama isn't giving up on the old capital of the Confederacy, mainly because he can't afford to lose Virginia. Here, too, Obama is spending in Democratic base territory. Part of the city is represented by long-time Rep. Bobby Scott (D). A low turnout in Richmond could doom Obama's chances in the state.
4. Las Vegas, Nev.: Sin City saw the biggest weekly ad flight (772 GRPs) by AEA last week. Nevada Democrats know how to successfully weather a hammering by outside groups. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was their top target in 2010, but he was able win reelection by identifying new Democratic votes, bombarding them with TV ads and ensuring they got to the polls on Election Day. Many of the party's supporters he discovered were among the unionized hotel and food service workers in the Vegas area. The Obama camp wants to keep their passion alive until November so it can chalk up another win in the Silver State.
5. Dayton-Lima-Toledo, Ohio: The I-75 corridor isn't traditional Democratic territory. In fact, it's the part of the state that George W. Bush mined in 2004 to come up with the votes needed to win Ohio and his reelection. Still, it's telling that the Obama camp decided to buy in Lima, even with no AEA spending to counter. This is an area where Democratic performance can only improve and, if it does, could help compensate for a drop in turnout in metro Cleveland or Columbus.