October 16th, 2008
04:23 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama outspending McCain 3-to-1 on TV; could exceed $110 million in October

Sen. Obama is outspending Sen. McCain 4-to-1 on campaign commercials.

Sen. Obama is outspending Sen. McCain 4-to-1 on campaign commercials.

HEMPSTEAD, New York (CNN) –- Barack Obama is on track to spend more than $110 million on campaign commercials in October, an outstanding sum that does not include payment for the 30-minute network prime-time ads scheduled to air six days before Election Day.

Obama’s decision to opt out of the presidential public financing system has given him a distinct advantage over John McCain when it comes to airing political commercials. Obama’s daily spending on campaign ads is three times more than McCain’s – $4.5 million to $1.5 million – according to an analysis by TNSMI-Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN’s consultant on political advertising.

Obama’s spending translates into about 7,700 airings of campaign commercials each day, more than double the 3,600 ads being run by McCain. Both candidates are running the ads in key battleground states. Obama is also on the air nationally, on network and cable, buying ads on NFL football games, soap operas and in primetime.

Obama is expected to spend between $1 million and $1.5 million on the 30-minute campaign commercials that will air on CBS, FOX and NBC on October 29, projects Evan Tracey, CMAG’s chief operating officer.

“This is more than just a message imbalance,” Tracey said. “This is, in media terms, a rout. John McCain is in a shouting match against a guy with a megaphone.”

Tracey estimates that by the end of the week, Obama will have spent more than President Bush did on campaign ads in 2004. During his successful re-election bid, Bush spent around $190 million - and the president went on the air in 2004 four months before Obama turned his focus to the general election in June of this year. To be fair, Obama has been running ads since June 2007 - during a primary battle that lasted far longer than anyone expected - but those commercials focused on his battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Tracey also said that Obama can legitimately claim he is running a 50-state campaign because he is buying network and national cable advertising.

In the general election, Obama could potentially spend north of $250 million, while McCain might be in for $130 million. The Democratic nominee has also purchased his own channel on the Dish Network where he shows campaign videos.

“Obama is re-writing the rulebook for presidential advertising,” said Tracey.

Television ad spending by all of the candidates and interest groups in the primaries and general election could reach $800 million.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (217 Responses)
  1. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    I have no problem with Obama's campaign spending my money like this. The way I look at it, all of the spending is staying INSIDE the U.S. No problem with that at all!

    October 16, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  2. a grad student in biomed research

    this is NOT Obama being wasteful. Every single penny he spends here is donated by people like me. We demand a voice, a voice spoke through Obama!

    October 16, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  3. sabuc for Obama and voting early!

    Not only is he outspending McCain on TV, Obama is advertising in Xbox 360 video games like Burnout Paradise (a billboard in the game). I read there are some 18 games Obama will or has already purchased ad space in! Crazy!

    Alright people. Vote early or show up early to vote on Nov 4. Nobody is ahead or behind until the last ballot is counted on Nov 4th!! Make sure all your friends and family members get out and vote!!

    October 16, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  4. Peter (CA)

    Unfortuantely, Obama has to spend this money to contradict the lies coming from the McCain campaign and from their friends in the 527 groups.
    I'm sure the Republicans would love nothing more than for the TV to be filled with Swift Boat lies that Obama could not repudiate.

    October 16, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  5. Murf

    So the party of the millionaires is getting beaten by the poor man's candidate. How touching. My heart bleeds for them. It bleeds – contempt.

    October 16, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  6. Matt

    $4.5 million to $1.5 million...more like a 3:1 advantage. 🙂

    October 16, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  7. Debbie

    It's a shame that's what it takes to win elections. On the other hand, this money comes from people like us, not giant bumbling corporations and special interests.

    October 16, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  8. Moose in hiding, scared of john

    Good. This why i give 25.00 each month. Should we expect him to keep the money. Can someone tell john mccain to stop crying.

    October 16, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  9. Disappointed

    $110 million on ads in October?

    That's a lot of Hollywood donors that Obama will have to try and keep happy if he's elected.

    It's a shame he opted out of public funding. This election would have had a whole different tone.

    October 16, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  10. Jen, California


    Wealth distribution = tax the job producers right out of job production = (but everybody gets to go to college = too bad there are no jobs for them after they graduate) = and who’s left to produce the wealth you want to distribute? Ah, that's right - your campaign contributors!


    No soup kitchen for my family - NO OBAMA NOW OR EVER!

    October 16, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  11. Big Blue

    If you got it spend it and make it count.
    Looks like little jonny is not having a very good day....HA HA HA !!!!!!!

    October 16, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  12. Lynnette

    Does anyone know how much Obama raised in September yet? Looking at these figures, it had to exceed $125 Million....Wow, wow, and WOW!
    You go Obama – YOU ARE THE MAN!

    October 16, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  13. Jude



    Yeah...Foxnews...(Un)fair and (Un)Balance. A bunch of liar and cronnies for the Repub party. I'm a conservative that just can't stand the smears and fears tatic of the Repub party and foxnews. "Sean Hannity" – what a joke reporter. "OReilly" – nothing but a shouting match.

    October 16, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  14. WES

    If my donations to the Obama for America presidential campaign helps Mr. Obama win the White House on November the 4th, it will be the best investment I've made in a long time.

    Keep up the fantastic work and I sincerely appreciate the personal touch emails I have received in return for my donations thus far. I can't wait to print out the email that thanks me personally for helping Senator Obama become President Obama.


    October 16, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  15. republican for Obama

    Who can say that Barack Obama is not ready to lead, when he has managed one of the best campaigns in history? even against the Clintons, that ended with a 22 million dollar in debts!

    Yes we need you president Obama to take control of our nation!

    October 16, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  16. Linda32

    Looks like I need to donate again!

    October 16, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  17. Brian

    FYI – $4.5 million is three times more than $1.5 million rather than four times more as mentioned article posted above.

    1.5 x 4 = $6 million
    1.5 x 3 = $4.5 million

    October 16, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  18. Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC @ 4 & 6pm eastern

    I guess it's no wonder John McCain was so happy to use "Joe the Plumber" as a debate prop last night - he's a partisan Republican who also happens to be a member of McCain's old friends, the Keating family.

    From Martin Eisenstadt:

    Turns out that Joe Wurzelbacher from the Toledo event is a close relative of Robert Wurzelbacher of Milford, Ohio. Who’s Robert Wurzelbacher? Only Charles Keating’s son-in-law and the former senior vice president of American Continental, the parent company of the infamous Lincoln Savings and Loan. The now retired elder Wurzelbacher is also a major contributor to Republican causes giving well over $10,000 in the last few years.

    Now I guess we know why Joe is telling the press that Obama is a "socialist" and that the Obama tax plan "infuriated" him. After all, it would hit families like the Keatings and their minions the hardest.

    October 16, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  19. Dan, TX

    That is may money hard at work. Best return on any of my investments this year!

    October 16, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  20. Mathematician

    4.5 is not four times bigger than 1.5

    October 16, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  21. Tyree,LV-Independent For Obama

    Wow, i Guess The Republicans Aren't That Rich After All.

    Obama/Biden 08'

    October 16, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  22. Gary

    Obama's overspending on negative ads prove just how overzealous he is in his ambition to capture the White House.

    I think he needs to tone it down a bit and perhaps he should consider donating some of that ad money towards a worthy cause, like giving some of it to a few homeless shelters.

    Also, I think most Obama supporters are swayed by Obama's engaging smile, his charisma, and the false hope that he will redistribute the wealth. They should take a step back and really look hard at his overzealous ambition to become President. Quite frankly, it scares me.

    October 16, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  23. Zagazaw

    Barack Obama will be to the presidency what Tiger Wood is to gulf. Just like Woods change the dynomics of gulf, Obama will also change washington.

    If vote was needed for Tiger Woods to get a shot at the game most likely he would not be playing gulf today. yet he came out of no where and make the gome more appealing for everyone.

    Obama. 08

    October 16, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  24. Allen

    Money well spent to tell us how Obama will restore our slumping economy. Not McBush's AAA Ad's, acorn, ayers and anger.

    October 16, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  25. Kate

    I make $40,000 a year and I've given Obama $350 dollars. Thats how much I DON'T want McCain and Palin in the White House. 'Average Americans' have put their time and money on the line in order to make sure that this time around we don't have another 4 years of the same! I'd give more if I could!

    October 16, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
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