WASHINGTON (CNN) - What key constituency group are the presidential candidates fighting over? Soccer moms? NASCAR dads? Perhaps, but if television ad spending habits are any indication, the keys to the White House may be held by Pat Sajak and Vanna White.
Over the course of the campaign, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain together have spent over $2 million to air televised campaign ads on “Wheel of Fortune,” the long-running syndicated game show hosted by Sajak and White. This is more than the three have spent on any other individual television program, according to data from TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), CNN’s consultant on political ad spending.
Obama has spent the most on “Wheel,” with over $1 million spent so far, followed by Clinton with $815,000 and McCain with $168,000.
“’Wheel of Fortune’ is a great way to talk to typical American voters in an efficient way,” says Evan Tracey, CMAG’s chief operating officer. “It’s a program that typically follows the news and leads into prime-time, so it’s inexpensive but also efficient.”
Running a close second to “Wheel” is “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Obama, who received Winfrey’s endorsement last year, has bought an estimated $974,000 in ads on the Chicago-based talk show, compared to $596,000 for Clinton and $185,000 for McCain.
The biggest recipients of presidential TV ad dollars are the hundreds of local news broadcasts in cities across the country. The three presidential candidates have spent a combined $36.7 million on the local news, with Clinton edging Obama in spending, $17 million to $16 million. McCain has spent almost $4 million on the local news since the start of the campaign.
In additional to “Wheel,” “Winfrey,” and the local news, the programs that Clinton spent the most of her TV advertising money on were morning network news programs: NBC’s “Today Show” and ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Obama’s top five television programs in terms of ad spending are rounded out by “Today” and the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men.” McCain’s top five progams, aside from “Winfrey” and the local news, were all game shows: “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy,” and NBC’s “Deal or No Deal.”