Patterico's Pontifications

10/11/2008

Has Obama Spent A Sizeable Portion Of His Campaign Funds Already In Going For An Early Knockout Of McCain?

Filed under: 2008 Election — WLS @ 8:57 am



[Posted by WLS]

This post is going to be something of a work in progress because I intend to update it with new information over time.

I have been perplexed by the reporting that Obama is outspending McCain 3-1 on television advertising in battleground states. At first I attributed this to incomplete reporting on the part of the media -– since McCain’s campaign itself has only $84 million in public financing to spend and Obama will have somewhere between $200 and $250 million to spend, the fact that Obama would have a 3-1 advantage over McCain isn’t surprising. The McCain campaign always intended to rely on about $200 million in funds raised by the RNC to even up its funding disadvantage, and Obama doesn’t have a commensurate level of support from the DNC.

Then I saw this Washington Post blog post yesterday at Chris Cizzila’s “The Fix” that shows Obama spent nearly twice as much on television advertising in 17 battleground states as the McCain/GOP forces combined over 7 days from September 30 to October 6.

The math left me shaking my head. How can Obama spend $20 million in seven days, with a full five weeks left until the election, given the gross amount of money available to him? To continue spending at that same level through the election would require another $80+ million.

Obama’s campaign expenditures in the three summer months prior to the convention were $25.7 million, $57.2 million, and $56 million from June to August, respectively. Obviously that didn’t include spending on television advertising at a clip of $80 million a month.

It’s hard to know exactly how much Obama’s campaign infrastructure (everything other than advertising) is costing, but when Palin was named VP, Obama was running an operation spending about $2 million a day. That would be $60 million a month — probably a little high if we’re talking only about overhead, but if that number is $50 million a month, then the months of September and October are going to cost his campaign at least $100 million. And that doesn’t even factor in whether there are increased expenses the week before the election for things like phone-banking and other GOTV efforts.

Let’s revisit some of the numbers that have been reported in terms of Obama’s fundraising and compare them with the anecdotal information about his spending.

As of September:

1. Fundraising.

The Obama campaign reported $77 million in cash on hand, having raised $65 million in August. That left Obama 60 days to raise additional money to add to his $77 million.

Let’s assume his fundraising increases in September and October and thus will be higher than the $65 million raised in August. Let’s also say he raises $150 million net of all fundraising expenses, which would be more than $175 million gross or better than $85 million a month. That would give Obama a total pool of $225 million to spend from September 1 to November 4 — a span of 75 days.

2. Expenses.

Deduct from that amount the overhead costs of his campaign operations not including advertising. Even if you use a low-end estimate of $50 million a month — we’ll know better how much his campaign is costing on October 20 when he files his September FEC report — that would be $100 million for September and October, leaving Obama with $125 million for non-operating costs like advertising.

3. Recent Ad Buys.

And yet the reporting I linked above from the Washinton Post says Obama spent $20 million on television buys in 17 states — 16% of his entire budget — in the 7 days between September 30 and October 6.

To put this number in perspective, from the Tuesday following the GOP convention to the Tuesday of Election day, there are 9 weeks. Obama would spend $180 million on advertising alone if he spent $20 million each week — yet he likely has no more than $125 million available to spend on such advertising.

We know Obama was advertising not only in battleground states but also in many red states into mid-September during the onset of the credit crisis and financial meltdown, so its not like he started spending in the battleground states on September 30.

Now we learn that Obama has bought 30 minute blocks of time on CBS and NBC on October 29, for about $1 million each — that’s the Wednesday 6 days before the election. Many voters will make up their minds that final weekend. This will get much attention and day after coverage in the press.

Is Obama going to need this exposure because he’ll largely be off the air in a lot of places due to a lack of money when the last week of October rolls around, preserving his remaining funds for GOTV efforts?

It looks like Obama saw an opportunity in the aftermath of the market meltdown in late September to put McCain away over the issue of the economy, and he went for it. He committed a significant amount of his total advertising budget over a very short span of time, and saw a significant shift in the polling both nationally and in the battleground states as a result.

It remains to be seen if this bump will be lasting or whether it will dissipate as others have in the past.

— WLS

49 Responses to “Has Obama Spent A Sizeable Portion Of His Campaign Funds Already In Going For An Early Knockout Of McCain?”

  1. How can 1/2 hour of prime time on the networks be just $1million? That seems insanely low.

    Soronel Haetir (644722)

  2. Your analysis makes sense. If it is in fact the reason it has not helped a lot. 7 points is significant but can be overcome.
    I’m curious as to how many people will tune in on a Wednesday night to hear him.
    McCain probably ought to buy some time himself and work the theme that he is doing this for the country, that difficult days lie ahead and experience will be what gets the country through it most effectively.
    McCain really is the last of the old school warriors that will run for president. That in itself makes me sad.

    voiceofreason2 (10af7e)

  3. I live 60 miles SSE of the Washington, DC capital beltway, and subscribe to DISH Network, including the DC local channels.

    The local DC channel lineup includes a continuously-running “OBAMA” channel (73) which purports to describe his “plans” for America. That can’t be cheap, even if it’s only a regional broadcast.

    Moreover, for the past few nights between 6:00 and 6:30PM, as I (casually) overheard the local DC news on the ABC affiliate, channel 7, Obama commercials happened on EVERY break. While I wasn’t actually watching, I think no other ads ran during the program.

    I don’t see how any viewer could watch that for awhile and not get sick of the repetition.

    However, it sort of makes me wonder: if Obama has to work this hard to cement the votes in the democrat back-yard that is DC/MD/Northern VA, is it in fact a given that he’s a shoo-in for president?

    dhmosquito (b08114)

  4. You cannot apply standard accounting practices to Obama’s campaign finances. This would ignore the “by any means necessary” Alinsky method of gaining power, and the duplicity of the media in providing Obama with ad time regardless of ability to pay. This is not Kansas, Dorothy.

    twolaneflash (6c1719)

  5. WLS…
    Very impressive…
    But, Obama could stop spending today and still win the election as long as John McCain keeps saying what he did at that rally yesterday in WI (or was it MI?).
    vor2 described JSM as “…the last…old-school warrior…”, and I don’t question that he wants to win, I’m just unsure if he knows how to win – or is willing to take seriously the advice of those who do?

    Another Drew (2a4150)

  6. Comment by Soronel Haetir — 10/11/2008 @ 9:48 am

    Media is required by FEC/FCC regs to offer time/space to election campaigns at the lowest booked rate, regardless of the time/place of the placement.
    That is why a one-half hour of prime-time TV can sell for less than $1M, when if it was GM, it would probably be 5X as much – let alone what 30sec. costs on a Super-Bowl broadcast.

    Another Drew (2a4150)

  7. Comment by Another Drew — 10/11/2008 @ 10:02 am

    I think that McCain really believes in a sense of honor and civility in general. He appeals to the older (read as 45+) with this theme because they subscribe to that philosophy. If he could appeal to the younger crowd with a message of transition versus change it might make a difference. By this I mean that people still have reservations about Obama – “is he too young” “what about experience” etc. If they see McCain as the “agent of transition rather than change” to the younger he may win on the comfort level as to who voters want in for the next four years as the nation catches its breath.

    voiceofreason2 (10af7e)

  8. So wls, what do you think? Do you think Obama will soon run out of cash or are you “perplexed” at his operations?

    love2008 (1b037c)

  9. Comment by voiceofreason2 — 10/11/2008 @ 10:14 am

    “…a sense of honor and civility…” that will cripple him in attempting to defeat the most serious political opponent he has ever had to face.
    A decent man, hamstrung by his own sense of personal, and professional, honor.
    An honor his opponents laugh at, and openly deride.
    What he fails to realize, or, at least what comes across as a lack of recognition on his part, is that this is not a fight mano-a-mano, but that he represents a large part of the American population, and the continuation of an American Tradition that is in danger of being lost.
    It is not a situation where you can say, “Well, I fought the good fight, and now we can go forward…”.
    This is much more important than that, because it appears that John McCain does not appreciate the threat to his America that Barack Obama represents, and will not fight that existential battle that he needs to engage.

    Another Drew (2a4150)

  10. If we click on the Obama ads we see online (Drudge Report) isn’t Obama required to pay that site a little money? I have Google Adsense and some clicks are as much as 50 cents or higher, some only 5 cents. Anyway, it seems we could drain a little money by clicking on his ads, and then leaving, every little bit adds up…

    Stev (126192)

  11. Comment by Another Drew — 10/11/2008 @ 10:31 am

    We will have to agree to disagree. He will win by his appeal to moderates/independents not by sharpening attacks in the way the base would like to see.

    voiceofreason2 (10af7e)

  12. I don’t see Obama running out of cash ever. I agree that his Alinsky method will be funded by any means necessary by his esteemed colleagues. Maybe Odinga will come an campaign for him for free in the last weeks of the election.

    Jenny (a7a9b9)

  13. Another Drew:

    An honor his opponents laugh at, and openly deride.

    What he fails to realize, or, at least what comes across as a lack of recognition on his part, is that this is not a fight mano-a-mano, but that he represents a large part of the American population, and the continuation of an American Tradition that is in danger of being lost.

    It is not a situation where you can say, “Well, I fought the good fight, and now we can go forward…”.

    This is much more important than that, because it appears that John McCain does not appreciate the threat to his America that Barack Obama represents, and will not fight that existential battle that he needs to engage.

    Well put. I disagree VOA2. I don’t suggest wild attics. But I think many Americans subscribe to basic fairness. He tried to do a little of this in the second debate, talking about Obama’s backing out of campaign finance. But for better or worse, few undecideds care, and they might even think McCain’s a sucker for it.

    Still, McCain needs to hit Obama with a two-by-four regarding the way Obama has been running his campaign. Threatening AIP with DOJ investigations over an Ayers ad; these truth squads in Missouri; Obama’s connection to Acorn and our financing of Acorn, all as Acorn is corrupting our electoral process across the country. It purports to be bipartisan GOTV, but it’s not. And it’s getting federal funding to pull shenanigans. I think independents want to see an honest election and may very well pull back. Hardball politics is one thing; stealing elections is an entirely different matter.

    SAM (94bb58)

  14. Since Baracky has a practically unlimited pool of people with fake names and refuses to document his donations under $200, is there any reason to suspect that he could ever run out of money?

    JD (f7900a)

  15. Obama is running ads he in Indiana which, at the very least, are 5x as many as McCain. And all but one in the rotation are negative and dishonest. But McCain is running a negative campaign.

    JD (f7900a)

  16. This is much more important than that, because it appears that John McCain does not appreciate the threat to his America that Barack Obama represents, and will not fight that existential battle that he needs to engage.

    The over-dramatization of an Obama presidency as bad and “a threat to America” is becoming stupid. Can things get worse than it is now? You guys need to stop that pessimism and learn how to lose gracefully. You’ve had your eight years and we can see the result. Let’s try a different hand.
    Methinks that your real fear is the possibility that Obama would do well as President. Thus disputing all your false predictions. He will win and America will proper again. Say “no” to fear and hate!

    love2008 (1b037c)

  17. #15 correction.
    “prosper” not “proper”

    love2008 (1b037c)

  18. Things can, and will, get much worse than now if Obama is elected. The man is corrupt and has no respect for democracy at all.

    Evil Pundit (843b74)

  19. He will win and America will proper again. Say “no” to fear and hate!

    Whoever wins will inherit one of the ugliest recessions in recent memory. Wait till after Christmas when anemic sales cause businesses to fail, causing lost jobs and more home foreclosures.
    Obama will not be able to deliver on his spending promises, health care or “no taxes on 95%” of the people. Protectionism, higher taxes, and lower standard of living will be the real result.
    Colossal failure will be the likely verdict of history for an Obama presidency. His re-election mantra for 2012 could still be “It’s Bush’s fault”.

    voiceofreason2 (10af7e)

  20. Can things get worse than it is now?

    Yea, we can become like our neighbors to the south, Mexico, with its rampant levels of crime, corruption, poverty and misery. And, incidentally, that nation has been beholden to, and dominated by, its version of America’s Democrat Party for over 70 years.

    Meanwhile, Great Britain has been managed by its version of the Democrat Party — referring to the Labor Party — since 1997, with its former prime minister, Tony Blair, being sort of like Britain’s Bill Clinton, and the current prime minister being analogous to an Al Gore (or John Kerry), if Clinton had been succeeded in the US by another Democrat. And the last time I checked, the UK is in an economic quagmire — and their real-estate market has become no less of a mess — as much as what’s going on in the US.

    Mark (b1f62d)

  21. love2008, I am saying “No” to fear and hate. That’s why I am voting for McCain. It is Obama who has sided with fear and hate for so long. Ayers. Wright. Dohrn. Farrakhan.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  22. Indeed, Mark. The British government is currently bailing out banks at proportionate costs. As are the European nations – the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany et al – and we know how much better they are at government than we are …

    Iceland is in fact entirely bankrupt as a nation after the collapse of its largest bank.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  23. There you go again, projecting. What else do you have than Ayers and Dorhn and Farrakhan and Wright? It is beginning to seem like a vote for McCain is a vote against Obama. That seems like voting based on fear. That is not putting country first.

    love2008 (1b037c)

  24. #19
    Colossal failure will be the likely verdict of history for an Obama presidency. His re-election mantra for 2012 could still be “It’s Bush’s fault”.
    Do you believe that whoever wins, the mistakes of the past eight years would have been resolved by 2012? The most important thing is to put it in the hands people who know how to fix it. How long it takes is another issue.
    You cannot solve a problem with the mindset that created it. Fundamental leadership change is pivotal.

    love2008 (1b037c)

  25. #24
    So no matter what a President Obama is not accountable? Blame Bush will be the battle cry for the next generation of Democrats? That sounds a little lame don’t you think?

    voiceofreason2 (10af7e)

  26. #25
    What do you project McCain would do under the same circumstances?
    My point is whoever wins won’t have it that easy. But it is better to hand it over to someone or people who have a clue as to what to do to change it. That is why many are switching over to Obama. Not because Obama has all the answers but because he has people around who have proven records on the economy. People who worked for Bill Clinton. It won’t be easy but we can be sure that there will be some improvement.

    love2008 (1b037c)

  27. You guys need to stop that pessimism and learn how to lose gracefully. You’ve had your eight years and we can see the result. Let’s try a different hand.

    This is the “poker hand” concept so common to uninformed Americans. Jimmy Carter left us with Afghanistan and Iran as centers of terrorism and threat that we will still face for another 20 years, if not longer. Major mistakes by people like Obama will a drag for decades. Bush made mistakes but the Iraq decision ended 10 years of stagnation on that issue. Yes, it has been costly but lefties will be able to ignore success there (unless Obama undoes it out some stupid desire to deny Bush a legacy) even as they disdain the efforts to make them safe.

    Speaking of losing gracefully, where do you think Bush Derangement Syndrome came from ?

    Mike K (2cf494)

  28. WLS, this series of yours increasingly seems like wish-casting. You’re ignoring the rumblings from the RNC (as reported in liberal Wall Street Journal) that they’re redirecting funds to prevent the Democrats from gaining “the magic 60″ in the Senate. On the one hand, that’s a quasi-concession of defeat in the Presidential election. On the other, any significant support they throw to embattled Senatorial candidates comes directly at the expense of the McCain campaign, which hasn’t really demonstrated any ability to spend contributions wisely anyway.

    But as JD says, this will all come down to Obama’s having embraced the failed politics of ’60s radicals, and the fraud against ACORN will become the fraud by ACORN, and Obama will win the election hands down. (Or something.)

    SEK (072055)

  29. What fraud against ACORN, SEK? Are the double digit investigations of fraud against them a figment of someone’s imagination? Is Baracky’s relationship to ACORN imaginary?

    JD (f7900a)

  30. I gave Baracky $340, in $20 donations.

    thuyprggjjjjj (f7900a)

  31. People who worked for Bill Clinton. It won’t be easy but we can be sure that there will be some improvement.

    Read your history Love2008. Remember the tech bubble that burst in 2000? That happened under Clinton’s watch. The balanced budget was accomplished in large part to an almost 50% cut in uniformed personnel for the “peace dividend”.
    Further, no one can be sure about anything. I’ll take experience over hope any day of the week.

    voiceofreason2 (10af7e)

  32. From VOR2:

    Further, no one can be sure about anything. I’ll take experience over hope any day of the week.

    I’ll add that I’ll take character over expedience any day of the week…and twice on Sundays.

    Regarding hate, I look forward to Obama’s Secretary of Education, Bill Ayers. And partial-birth abortion has to be among the ultimate manifestations of hate.

    SAM (94bb58)

  33. The over-dramatization of an Obama presidency as bad and “a threat to America” is becoming stupid.

    Once again, insipid analysis from our little Bobo – anyone who doesn’t vote for The Messiah is just “stoopid.” Brilliant, you can’t make this stuff up, you have to really work hard at coming up with such brain – deadening outflow.

    Dmac (cc81d9)

  34. This may provide McCain some ammo in the upcoming debate. He can make the plausible argument that a Democratic congress is holding citizens hostage to solutions. Makes a good case for divided government if he threads the needle the right way.

    voiceofreason2 (10af7e)

  35. I’m wondering if Obama is elected president when impeachment proceedings will begin.

    James (2264b2)

  36. Why would you wonder that, James? Do you think San Fran Nan will grow to be disillusioned by Teh Messiah?

    JD (f7900a)

  37. How much is it to rent the side of – say about 20 or 30 buildings in major swing-state cities – on which McCain can broadcast his campaign message? The novelty of it would additionally bring about a lot of free media.

    We need some guerilla tactics to break things up and get the attention of undecideds and Independents over these last few weeks.

    Brian (b4ed74)

  38. James, depends on how much Rezko spills before versus after the election.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  39. 25 years ago I worked for a public accounting firm. One of our clients was a direct mail firm that worked for a one of the national parties and for many of their candidates. Even today you would recognize the name of many of the politicians on their bad debt list.
    My guess is that the Obama campaign is buying ads now on account and not worrying about how or if they will pay for them later.

    RickM (4e2c5b)

  40. Comment by voiceofreason2 — 10/11/2008 @ 10:36 am

    Actually, we probably agree more than we disagree.
    I don’t think he has to go “pit bull”, but he needs to stop contradicting his own message.
    The comment yesterday as to not having to be “…afraid of Obama…” directly contradicts a TV and/or radio ad he has playing in the same markets that Obama’s policies are “dangerous” for America.
    That is the mush-brain thinking that I deplore.
    I agree that he needs to appeal to the center/indies, but he has to grant them some level of basic intelligence
    (unlike what the moon-bat Left demonstrates) and lay out the facts – “We Report, You Decide!”

    As I said above, this is the first time in his political career that he has really had to mount a serious campaign, against a serious opponent; and, I just don’t know if he’s got it in him – the current state of the campaign would seem to say NO!

    Another Drew (2a4150)

  41. You guys need to stop that pessimism and learn how to lose gracefully.

    Yeah, just like the Donks “lost gracefully” in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004.

    Important Safety Tip: actually take the time to review your posts for factual accuracy before hitting the “Submit Comment” key.

    MarkJ (7fa185)

  42. He’s probably pulling in big bucks from his supporters in Palestine, Europe, and anywhere else – look at the Obama donation scam already reported; the same folks will do it at $20 instead of a reportable $25.

    Bill (9179a5)

  43. voiceofreason2:
    “John McCain does not appreciate the threat to his America that Barack Obama represents, and will not fight that existential battle that he needs to engage.”

    But McCain knows Obama better than you or I, since they serve together in the Senate.

    Maybe McCain knows something you don’t know: That underneath it all, Obama isn’t all that scary.

    If you are supporting McCain, then why aren’t you trusting his judgment when he said at that rally that you don’t have to be scared of Obama?

    If you can’t believe what your own candidate says, why are you supporting him?

    sinz52 (c7997a)

  44. Comment by sinz52 — 10/12/2008 @ 7:15 pm

    I believe that vor2 would appreciate it that you don’t try to lay my statements on him.
    The sentence that you show in quotes and italycized was posted by me at 10/11-1031am.

    As to why I would support John McCain if I don’t trust his judgement?
    For the same reason that most political support is extended:
    The guy I support, though flawed, is, in my opinion, superior to his opponent.

    We take what we can.
    It is a rare election that the two most able candidates square off against each other.
    The best that we can hope for is to be able to elect the least worst.

    Another Drew (912e22)

  45. The best that we can hope for is to be able to elect the least worst.

    A more accurate description of Election 2008 has not been written.

    JD (f7900a)

  46. Someone once said that the last person in the world I would want as President of the United States, is someone who wants the job, for no sane, rational person would do so.

    Another Drew (912e22)

  47. Maybe McCain knows something you don’t know: That underneath it all, Obama isn’t all that scary.

    Naw. That’s just McCain’s soft and fuzzy side showing through. It’s similar to the way a person will feel protective towards his otherwise deranged and obnoxious brother, sister or certainly mother, or dear friend, when he or she is being challenged and criticized by a third party. I’m sure McCain feels that Obama is like one of his kid brothers in the “family” of US Senators.

    Now if McCain were a really idiotic, clueless liberal, his behavior towards Obama might even start bordering on that of a beaten, black-and-blue-bruised wife who’s forever protecting and making excuses for her abusive husband. Or similar to the way a President Obama probably will treat America’s enemies—eg, “Iran is a mean, nasty nation, but maybe we did something to deserve their contempt!”

    Mark (04a11e)

  48. I see that no one has come back to point out that Obama your underlying premise was false. Obama has more money than you could have possibly imagined because he has a much wider contributor base than McCain. A contributor base that is growing with each passing day: everytime the networks run a clip of Palin at a rally, thousands of dollars more pour in.

    As far as the “character over expedience” argument goes, McCain lost that one the day he decided to try to win at any cost and put Palin on the ticket.

    Karen M. (9f7540)

  49. Karen – You are a moron. Just sayin’

    asderfg loiuyt (f7900a)


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