Romney expected to swamp Obama on air
The television advertising war for the 2012 presidential contest is now well and truly on with its total spending expected to swell to US$1.1 billion (more than J$90 billion).
The ad war has started anew now that both party conventions are over and the two-month sprint to the general election is under way.
Just over a third of the US$1.1 billion has been spent so far, according to the Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks campaign ad spending.
That means the campaigns and independent groups will spend more on the air in the final eight weeks of the presidential contest than they did in the first five months.
The biggest change is on the Republican side, with Mitt Romney now free to tap millions in general-election funds he had collected but could not spend until becoming the party's official nominee.
With that accomplished, the Republicans already significant spending advantage over President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies will grow larger still - the first time in history an incumbent president will have been outspent on the air by his opponents.
While the level of spending may be eye-popping, the playing field is even narrower. National polls show Obama and Romney in a virtual dead heat, but only eight states are considered true battlegrounds: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.
Obama carried all of them against Republican John McCain in 2008, but they are too close to call for now.
Flush with new cash, the Romney campaign moved quickly to take advantage - pouring nearly US$5 million into a new ad campaign across those states after being dark for nearly two weeks.
A series of state-specific ads hit Obama on defence spending, business regulations and housing, while another ad uses President Bill Clinton's words from the 2008 primary race against Obama.
The Obama campaign spent US$166 million on ads through August 30, compared with US$74 million by the Romney campaign and US$22 million by the Republican National Committee.
But now, with Romney's general election resources unleashed and the Republican-leaning groups continuing to air ads backing his candidacy, the Obama campaign will be all but swamped on the air.
Obama campaign officials acknowledged last Friday how outmatched they are by Republicans on TV but said they had enough money to compete.
They also pointed to their sophisticated ground organising efforts, saying their ability to identify voters and get them to the polls would in part offset their advertising disadvantage.