October 12th, 2008
10:08 AM ET
12 years ago

Both campaigns spending about the same on negative ads

A McCain ad calls Obama 'not presidential.

A McCain ad calls Obama 'not presidential.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The race for the White House is being waged in the final weeks in American living rooms through a blitz of negative campaign commercials.

And though Sen. Barack Obama's campaign circulated a University of Wisconsin Advertising Project study earlier this week indicating all of Sen. John McCain's ads are negative compared to just 34 percent of Obama's, both campaigns are spending about equal amounts on attack ads.

An analysis of campaign commercials aired over the last seven days shows Obama outspent McCain nationwide by more than 2-1: $21.5 million vs. $9.2 million.

Watch: Negative ads dominate the campaign homestretch

But just under half of the money Obama is spending is going toward negative spots, meaning the Illinois senator is roughly keeping pace with his GOP rival when it comes to negative commercials, in terms of cash spent.

Check out CNN's Ad Spending Election Tracker

Campaign Media Analysis Group's Evan Tracey, CNN's consultant on campaign advertising, said Obama's cash advantage over McCain provides the Illinois senator with a luxury McCain cannot afford: the means to run both positive and negative TV spots.

"McCain is almost all negative because he needs to be," Tracey said, adding that McCain is "behind in the polls and outgunned."

Full story

soundoff (203 Responses)
  1. Shasta

    "The difference is Obama's "negative" ads are for McCains lies and failed policies not personal or negative innuendos."

    That's exactly what I was going to say.

    October 12, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  2. Lisa

    Equating a tough issues attack ads with ads which essentially equate the opposing candidate as a 'bad (dangerous possibly terrorist) person' is ridiculous. There is absolutely nothing wrong with attacking the other candidate's policies. But there is something profoundly wrong with attacking the other candidate's CHARACTER. CNN, get a clue and please quit trying be "fair and balanced" at the expense of rationality and reality!

    October 12, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. Richard

    I am really getting fatigued by all of this politicking, especially the negativity, when we all should be focusing on preventing an economic depression (I used the "D-Word"). Having partisans as guests on a "news" program creates heat (really good for ratings?) but not much in the way of constructive dialogue towards a comprehensive plan. The American people and many folks around the world need imaginative, resourceful, and brave leadership right now from governments, industry, and the news media.

    October 12, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. redhead from toronto

    Jack – Where are you? Where is the Cafferty File? We need you Jack, it's getting ugly out here. God bless you and give you strength.

    October 12, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  5. Trang, Fremont, CA

    Well, Obama wouldn't go negative if McCain hasn't gone negative. In fact, I was hoping both men would be civil and have a civil debate on issues. While Obama criticized Obama in McCain position on policies, and those are the issues that should be debated, McCain's campaign attacked Obama personally. But between their attacks and what we observe personally because Obama is out there campaigning for more than a year, it just reveals those people in the McCain campaign are blind and full of anger, and McCain doesn't quite know how to deal w/ this.

    October 12, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  6. Shannon

    Again, Obama supporters are purposely missing the point, Obama has run a dirty, nasty campaign from the beginning. He won against Clinton by labeling her a racist. If she was such a racist, why is he now asking her to help him win. Obviously he was saying anything to win. The man has run a negative campaign from the beginning, his fans are just to hypocritical to admit it.

    October 12, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. What is negative vs truth

    Obama attacks policy, McCain attacks character. That's why we are so disappointed in McCain, and that's why he will lose.

    October 12, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  8. prairieguy

    Need to know the difference of Obama's contrast ads about policy and the negative ads of McShame being very very personal...the two types cannot and should not be compared!!!!!

    October 12, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. j

    I'd prefer a candidate that tells me what they are going to do for the American people rather than sling dirt at their opponent. I think the Republicans ads are nastier and less truthful, although I have a liberal bias so it could be that I just find the Republican ads more annoying.

    I think they ought to give the candidates more time to answer the questions in the final debate. Sure it'll mean less questions but there might be more substance in the answers. One could only hope.

    October 12, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  10. Rob indetroit

    I think everybody should call on MCsenile to repudiate all the trash being put out by the Republican party along with the nut cases.

    October 12, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  11. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    John McCain and Palin have nothing left but attack Obama instead of attacking the real issues, the economy. The kind of attacks McCain and Palin are using do not take in considering all the ethnic groups we have in our military that are fighting side by side, what kind of message is McCain sending them. McCain of all people should know better if he expects Americans to recognize and honor him for his military service.

    October 12, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  12. Farnk, Las Vegas

    While both campaigns are getting more negative, McCain's negative ads are personal attacks and Obama's negative ads are on policy. So which one is really negative ads? I think it's McCain. When you have nothing to offer, you attack the other guy personally. Who said that, John McCain.

    October 12, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. michaelcal

    I cannot beleive a McCain spokesman would have the nerve to say that he didn't know where the people came fron and that they may be there to disrupt the event. OMG. Come on media call these people out.

    October 12, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. Ken

    What?!?!? The saint Obama is spending just as much on negative ads as the eeeeeeeeeeeeeevil Republicans?!?!

    How can this be?? Obama is a DIFFERENT kind of politician, right? Isn't that what we've had crammed down our throats for the last years??? He's going to CHANGE Washington!!!!

    So sad that it took CNN this long to figure out what everybody else already knew. Obama is the textbook definition of a Washington politician.

    October 12, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  15. Mrs. Texas Teacher

    Let's call an attack ad an attack ad!

    McCain is sowing hate and discontent. He is attacking Obama's character! McCain is appealing to the lowest level of Human Mentality with fear and hate!

    Obama is attacking the issues and McCain's wrong headed plans that mirror only the Bush Policies!

    There is a BIG difference!

    October 12, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  16. Mrs. Texas Teacher

    And of course, if the news media reports what is happening fairly! The McCain Camp is going to say that it IS THE LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS! There is no way to win with these people! The only way to WIN is to EXERCISE THE ONLY POWER WE HAVE.... AND VOTE THEM OUT!

    October 12, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  17. mpc

    Why does this article describe Obama spending 34% on negative ads as just under half? 34% is almost exactly 1/3, so why not call it that instead of trying to make it sound closer to 1/2 than it actually is?

    October 12, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  18. It is Obama-Biden in 2008 and 2012

    I guess after being the "great deregulator" for 26 years, which got this country in this mess in the first place; and after embracing Bush's failed economic policies 90% of the time McCain is running eractic and frantic to come up with something new to get his campaign out of the toilet. But he fails to realize that the American people are on to his schemes and do NOT trust him to lead this nation.

    Currently McCain's negative rating is 51% and his positive rating is just 27%. He does NOT have the experience, good judgment, nor temperament to be Commander-in-Chief !

    It's time for the American people to get it right and NOT vote for McCain-Palin, instead vote for change. It's time for this country to turn the page and seek a new and better future for ourselves and our children.It's time for REAL change in

    Obama-Biden are the wiser and stronger team to solve the crucial challenges we have in this nation and abroad !

    October 12, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  19. White woman of 63 for Obama from Day 1.

    Should something "happen" to Obama or HIS FAMILY because of
    McCain's dirty Rove tactics in attacking Obama ruthlessly, I will personally blame McCain!!!!
    How can McCain run a campaign like this and be able to sleep at
    night. And Alaska, can have Palin BACK. We don't want her! ABUSE of POWER is what the BUSH ADM. DID for the last 8 YEARS!!!!

    MCCAINS Dirty, rotton campaign tactics will go down in the HISTORY BOOKS and American minds, forever!. No matter what trick he brings out of the bag this time!!!!.

    October 12, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  20. Kwade

    I am sick of the finger pointing and mudslinging. I have lost more than 5k from my 401 and McSame is doing the same old Washington Mud Dance. Let us misdirect the people so we can get a few more dollars in our own pockets for another 4 years.

    I was undecided until this past debate. McSame talked about nothing. Gave no remedy. Gave no plans in the last week. Palin just added to the fury – Abortion? We are losing ground on our financial stand in the world and in our own borders. Why the heck are they just pointing fingers.

    The statement was correct – no plan = no win.

    Talk is talk. This is all an old man and a overly dressed, confused woman can do...... Talk about nothing and wink like it's just SO dang cute.

    October 12, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  21. White woman of 63 for Obama from Day 1.

    Should something "happen" to Obama or HIS FAMILY because of
    McCain's dirty Rove tactics in attacking Obama ruthlessly, I will personally blame McCain!!!! How can McCain run a campaign like this and be able to sleep at night!!! And Alaska, can have Palin BACK. We don't want her! ABUSE of POWER is what the BUSH ADM. DID for the last 8 YEARS!!!!

    MCCAINS Dirty, rotton campaign tactics will go down in the HISTORY BOOKS and American minds, forever!. No matter what trick he brings out of the bag this time!!!!.

    October 12, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  22. redhead from toronto

    McCain is still at 46%- Tell me, Where is that a gain? Give me a break. Go Obama/Biden 2008/2012

    October 12, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  23. White woman of 63 for Obama from Day 1.

    Should something "happen" to Obama or HIS FAMILY because of
    McCain's dirty Rove tactics in attacking Obama ruthlessly, I will personally blame McCain!!!! How can McCain run a campaign like this and be able to sleep at night!!! And Alaska, can have Palin BACK. We don't want her! ABUSE of POWER is what the BUSH ADM. DID for the last 8 YEARS!!!! MCCAINS Dirty, rotton campaign tactics will go down in the HISTORY BOOKS and American minds, forever!. No matter what trick he brings out of the bag this time!!!!.

    October 12, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  24. White woman of 63 for Obama from Day 1.

    Should something "happen" to Obama or HIS FAMILY because of
    McCain's dirty Rove tactics in attacking Obama ruthlessly, I will personally blame McCain!!!! How can McCain run a campaign like this and be able to sleep at night!!! And Alaska, can have Palin BACK. We don't want her! ABUSE of POWER is what the BUSH ADM. DID for the last 8 YEARS!!!! MCCAINS Dirty, rotton campaign tactics will go down in the HISTORY BOOKS and American minds, forever!. No matter what trick he brings out of the bag this time!!!!.

    CONNECT THE DOTS: Rove, Palin, Hannity, Bush, Ann Coulter,
    Limbaugh, McCain, Cheney. All rotton eggs!

    October 12, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  25. Carol Peterson

    CNN, a lot of this is your fault. I used to think you were the best in the business for reporting unbiased news. I don't think so anymore and I am going to go elsewhere for my news. CNN keeps leaning toward the GOP. The headline on this article is just another example of CNN's failing.

    October 12, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
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