Sen. Barack Obama is using his huge fundraising advantage to swamp Sen. John McCain in spending on everything from television advertising to campaign staff and offices, complicating McCain's drive to score a come-from-behind victory in the final weeks of the presidential race.
Obama is now outspending McCain on television ads by a margin of nearly four to one, according to Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of CMAG, a service that tracks political advertising. In some key TV markets in battleground states, Obama has been airing $1 million or more in ads a week, while the McCain campaign has aired no ads, Tracey said.
"It's a shock and awe strategy," said Bill Hillsman, an independent political consultant whose clients have included Ralph Nader and former Gov. Jesse Ventura of Minnesota.
"The sheer magnitude of all this advertising in a compressed period of time, gives them a pretty clear advantage … They are really using it as a big club right now."
For more on Obama's fundraising, watch "World News" this evening. Check your local listings for air time.
Obama's advantage on the Internet has been even more lopsided. His campaign paid for 914.5 million displays of ads on Web sites like Yahoo.com and aol.com in September, while the McCain campaign had only 7.9 million display ads on the Web, according to the ratings service Nielsen Online.
The Obama campaign's dominance also extends to the more traditional tools of political warfare, such as field workers and campaign offices.
In Ohio, one of the most contested battleground states, Obama has 89 campaign offices and more than 300 staffers, to an estimated 40 offices for the McCain campaign. In Indiana, a Republican-leaning state that Obama is heavily contesting, his campaign had 39 offices around the state as of Oct. 6, to none for McCain.
"It's like the Roman times, where they just sent legions and legions of people into the fight, and used their numbers to pick off the enemy," Hillsman said.
The imbalance is expected to be even more pronounced in the closing days of the campaign after the Obama camp announced on Sunday it had reeled in more than $150 million in donations in September, smashing all fundraising records.
This advantage largely is the result of Obama's decision to go back on his pledge to participate in the public campaign finance system.
He is free to raise and spend whatever he wants, while McCain's spending in the general election -- from the end of the Republican convention to Election Day -- is limited to the $84.1 million he is receiving in public funds.
Asked about the imbalance, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said Obama "broke his word" when he realized he was successful at "raising these megabucks."
"He signed on the dotted line that if he won the nomination he would work with John McCain to make sure there would be a publicly funded general election, and to limit spending. … I think what the American people are looking for is someone in the White House they can trust, and I think Barack Obama in the campaign has proven his word cannot be trusted."
The Obama campaign is making no apologies for its flip-flop, spokesman Nick Shapiro said.
"The system has been so gamed and exploited by our opponents that it is effectively broken," campaign manager David Plouffe wrote in an e-mail to supporters over the summer that explained Obama's decision to pull out of the campaign finance system.