To most of us, the country looks like 50 states. But to the Obama and Romney campaigns, it looks like just a dozen hotly contested states in which almost all of their campaigning has been.
And, if you follow the money, it really comes down to just Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada and Colorado, where the two sides have already spent over $110 million on the presidential election. Turn on the TV in one of these states and you'd think the election was next week. A vast majority of the political ad tsunami is brutally negative.
In Ohio, for example, ads from both sides have cost more than $38 million.
"Most of the ads are negative and at a certain point people get discouraged and start feeling like nobody in Washington is listening," President Obama has said.
That's right. Consider President Obama's own campaign: Over the last month, the Obama campaign has run some 68,000 ads - more than 52,000 of them attacking Mitt Romney. Romney and his supporters have their share of negative ads too.
Negative - and loose with the facts. In one Obama ad, a narrator says: "Romney's never stood up to China. All he has ever done is ship them our jobs."
Watch the anti-Romney ad here:
Romney's former company, Bain Capital, may have invested in companies with operations in China, but there is no evidence that it shipped any U.S. jobs there under Romney's leadership.
And this, from the Romney campaign: "Mitt Romney has a plan to get America working. Barack Obama? Worst job record since the Depression."
That's misleading. It's true that on Obama's watch there have been more jobs lost than created - something no president has done since the Depression. But in George W. Bush's first term, the net job loss was actually higher. And the biggest job losses came in the months after Obama became president, a trend that started under Bush.
Watch the anti-Obama ad here:
All this is a sign of things to come - over just the past month, the Romney campaign raised $109 million - shattering all his previous records and a staggering amount of money to pay for a lot of negative ads.