Blitz of Campaign Ads Is Early and Aggressive

May 17, 2012
By , The New York Times

The presidential campaign is erupting into a full-scale advertising war, with both candidates and their allies pouring huge sums into early and aggressive efforts to define the fight on their terms.

At least $50 million worth of ads will appear in swing states in the next several weeks as President Obama and Mitt Romney move swiftly to win over voters now, casting aside concerns that their money will be wasted on people who are not paying much attention five and a half months before Election Day.

The latest volley came on Wednesday, when Crossroads GPS, a political group formed by Karl Rove and other top Republican strategists, unveiled a $25 million advertising campaign. The group opened with a hard-hitting commercial that casts Mr. Obama as a failed leader, unable to deliver on his pledges to fix the country’s problems.

“President Obama’s agenda promised so much,” it says over the sound of breaking glass. “He hasn’t even come close. We need solutions, not just promises.”

The Crossroads campaign matches the $25 million advertising offensive that the Obama campaign began last week. Other outside political groups and “super PACs” have committed at least an additional $15 million in recent weeks, mostly to Mr. Romney’s benefit, according to Kantar Media.

There is almost certainly more to come before the highly viewed spring television schedule winds down for the summer. Many central players, including the Democratic and Republican Party committees and Mr. Romney’s campaign, have been largely absent from TV in recent weeks and are sitting on large piles of cash. Mr. Romney, who had more than $10 million in the bank at the end of March and has been busily raising money in the last few weeks, has not advertised since Rick Santorum dropped his bid for the Republican nomination a month ago.

Such a high volume of ads coming before the summer — many of them negative and concentrated in a handful of battleground states — further reinforces the belief among political strategists that this election will see an unusually heavy and vicious air war as outside political groups assume a larger role than ever.

In dueling sets of ads, each side offers its perspective on the improvement, or lack thereof, that the country has made under Mr. Obama. The new Crossroads ad pushes the narrative that despite his lofty vision for a better America, Mr. Obama — and indeed the nation — has made little progress in three and a half years.

In its ads, the Obama campaign tries to remind voters of the deep economic crisis the president inherited and argues that he has set the country on the right path.

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