The Incredibly Shrinking Campaign Battlefield

Earlier this summer, a confident Romney campaign walked reporters through their multiple paths to an Electoral College victory. With names like the "3-2-1? plan, the "Southern Sweep" and "Hawkeye Granite," the Romney campaign argued that it could lose some traditionally "red" states and still win the White House by picking off former blue states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin or even Minnesota.

But, with less than 53 days left until Election Day, only Wisconsin is competitive while GOPers have thrown in the towel in these other Big Ten states.

In fact, for the first time in memory, there are no presidential campaign ads on the air waves in Pennsylvania. That's good news for Team Obama who would rather spend their ad dollars holding onto swing states like Virginia and Ohio. Elizabeth Wilner of CMAG, a political ad tracking firm, writes this morning that "Republican efforts to use TV ads to turn half of the Big Ten states-Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin-into ripe territory for Romney seem to have hit a wall. Groups poured ad dollars into Michigan on and off for months, only to go dark as of late August. The spigot also appears to be turning off in Minnesota."

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Instead of multiple paths to victory, the Romney campaign has only the narrowest path that involves a near-sweep of the nine battleground states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Iowa. And, it puts even more pressure on the Romney campaign to turn around their fortunes in Ohio. The latest polling in the Buckeye state has Romney trailing Obama by anywhere from 4 to 7 points.

Meanwhile, for those voters who live in the remaining nine battleground states they should expect to be absolutely inundated with ads between now and election day. CMAG reports that "viewers in a sampling of politically crucial markets already are seeing anywhere from three to 12 times the number of presidential ads from recent cycles. During the week of August 15-22, the most recent "typical" week in the current presidential race (i.e., one without either a nominating convention or the traditional September 11 dark day):

  • 1,842 presidential ads aired in Columbus, Ohio-three times the 608 presidential ad occurrences that aired in Columbus during the same week eight years ago
  • 2,870 ads aired in Las Vegas market, a more than three-fold increase from 867 in 2004
  • 1,863 ads aired in Orlando, a 12-fold increase from 153 ads just four years ago (zero ads aired during this week in 2004)

Between now and November 6, CMAG estimates 43,000 ads per day will be run in just these nine states. For those who live there, we'd advise getting your DVR fired up.