Edwards, Clinton, and Obama have invested millions in Iowa televsion ads.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Less than one month before the Iowa caucuses, several presidential candidates are opening up their wallets and targeting Hawkeye State voters in a television ad blitz that so far has cost more than $13 million.
Most of the money is being spent by the three Democratic frontrunners, who view a win in Iowa as important in the march to their party’s presidential nomination.
Leading the pack is Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who has run nearly 8,000 television ads this year at a cost of more than $4 million, according to an analysis conducted by TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, CNN’s consultant on television ad spending. Meanwhile, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has spent $3 million on 5,100-plus ads, and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards has devoted $1.3 million to air more than 2,000 ads.
In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, new polling shows that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is leading in Iowa even though former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has saturated the airwaves with campaign ads. Romney has invested $4.1 million to run more than 7,000 ads in the Hawkeye State, while Huckabee’s television advertising buys has been negligible. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson trails a distant second to Romney in Iowa in terms of ad buys with around 1,050 campaign commercials aired at a cost of $600,000.
Huckabee’s sudden rise to the top of Iowa and some national polls is the result of his strategy to largely stay clear of criticizing his opponents, and the conservative evangelical community embracing his Baptist minister credentials. But Iowa polls are an imprecise yardstick to predict a winner of the caucuses, which are historically won by the candidate with the most finely-tuned ground operation. Romney has been building his get-out-the-vote effort for the past year, while Huckabee is now just starting to put his in place.
As for the Democrats: Clinton, Edwards and Obama are locked in a tight battle for the hearts and souls of Hawkeye State caucus voters who tend to lean towards the more liberal side of the political spectrum.
The Iowa caucuses will be held January 3rd followed five days later by the New Hampshire primary.
– CNN Political Editor Mark Preston
UPDATE: At this point in 2003, the presidential candidates spent a combined total of $2.3 million on television ads in Iowa, according to Evan Tracey of TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG. When you taken into account each buy placed by every candidate this year in the Hawkeye State, this number jumps to $17.3 million.