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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Buying an Election

The Los Angeles Times had an interesting story today about the Bush campaign scaling back its ads.

Already, however, the Bush team has spent a lot of cash. No, really, more than you think.

They apparently spent at least $40 million on ads to date -- with little to show for it. Consider these paragraphs from Ron Brownstein's story:
Pointing to recent polls that generally show Kerry at least even with the president, these Democrats say the Massachusetts senator has taken what could be the Bush campaign's hardest punch and is still standing.

The reelection team spent so much so soon "with the intent of putting this thing away early, and it didn't happen," said Erik Smith, executive director of the Media Fund, a group formed by leading Democrats that is running ads in support of Kerry.

Independent analysts agreed with that assessment.

Anthony Corrado, an expert on campaign finance at Colby College in Maine, said that since March 4 — just after Kerry in effect wrapped up his party's nomination — Bush has bought about as much television advertising as past presidential candidates purchased for the entire general election campaign.

"And frankly," Corrado said, the president's campaign "didn't move the [poll] numbers that much."

He added: "The Bush campaign came out heavy, both in terms of volume and with some of their strongest attacks, and they didn't get a knockout."
There will be more to come, of course, but the Kerry people have to feel like they've survived a heavyweight tuneup fight and have lived to fight the champion.
But extensive polling by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey found that Kerry's favorability ratio was virtually unchanged from the start of March until its end in the 18 states where the Bush campaign has advertised. And the Bush advertising apparently has done little to affect the president's standing with the public.

The Annenberg survey found that Bush's favorability rating in the 18 states did not change during March.

A survey last week by Democratic pollsters Stanley and Anna Greenberg for the Media Fund found that Bush's job approval rating in the contested states was 51% — virtually the same as before the advertising began. And a majority of those polled still said the country was moving in the wrong direction, the survey found.
Who knows, Kerry may yet be the favorite in November.

The story suggests that conditions in Iraq and the 9/11 Commission investigation have a lot to do with Bush's inability to hurt Kerry.

The article also notes that Bush has raised about $180 million. About $80 million will go to "basic operations" for the campaign, so the President's campaign will still have something like $60 million to spend on TV before November.

Yikes. And they are still fundraising.

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