Yes, expect record 2012 political spending
That's the outlook from those who follow campaign spending
June 22, 2011
The presidential election is still a year and a half away, and yet it seems to be dominating the news already, with more than a dozen Republicans so far announcing their intent to challenge President Barack Obama.
One of them, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has even bought his first television spots, and several of them, such as Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann, have plenty of money to draw on for their campaigns.
So it’s pretty much a sure bet that political spending will set another record next year.
As to how much will be spent this year in the run-up to the primaries, it will probably be less than in 2007, when both sides were gearing up for a wide-open election, one without a sitting president.
With Obama already guaranteed the Democratic nomination, there will be no serious Democratic challengers spending, and so Obama’s campaigning will be mainly against the Republicans and won’t start until next year.
No matter who secures the nominations, you can also safely bet that they will spend more on the internet next year than the candidates did in 2012, though that’s primarily a way of getting out the vote rather than to sway undecideds.
That is, in sum, the answer to the question posed in this week’s edition of Media Life’s feature Ask a Media Life expert.
The question: “There’s so much coverage now of the presidential race. With all the hubbub over the Republicans and the new candidates jumping in, how much political spending will we see this year? How does that compare to 2007? What’s the general outlook for next year on political spending? Will we see more online spending by the candidates?”
To answer the question, Media Life turned to Kenneth M. Goldstein, the new president of Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG). Goldstein, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recently took over for Evan Tracey.
But before giving you a more in-depth run-down on we’d like to invite readers to submit questions they’d like to see answered by Media Life experts. We’d also like to invite readers who are interested to join our panel of experts.
To submit a question or volunteer to become a Media Life expert, follow this link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W6MK92H.
And if you’d like to weigh in on this question with your own opinion, you can do so in the comment box at the bottom of this story
Now onto the expert.
Kenneth M. Goldstein, president of Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG)
For as long as I’ve been doing this, and I’ve never been wrong, I’ve said it will be more than last time around.
I’m talking about the entire 2012 cycle, which is starting now. One, you have the normal ratcheting up of campaigns. And as they branch out and do new things, they still need to stay on spot broadcast television.
Let me preface this by saying for as long as I’ve been studying advertising, reporters always call me in the odd numbered years and ask “isn’t there going to be fewer TV ads this time around?”
And then like clockwork they call the next year and ask about record TV spending. And I expect that to be the case this time as well.
There will be fewer dollars spent in the primary because last time we had a sitting president who wasn’t running and primaries on both the Democratic and Republican sides. And we had this epic and long battle between two well-funded candidates in Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Tim Pawlenty went on the air this week in Iowa with a spot cable buy, and that was the first shot–by this time in 2007 almost $6 million was spent already.
So that’s on the minus side–you’re not going to get as much in primaries.
That said, Obama is still going to raise a bunch of money and will spend it directing at Republicans, and he could be on the air as early as this fall.
The big thing that could lead to more ads in 2012 is the Citizens United decision.
In 2008 Obama signaled to groups that he didn’t want spending on his behalf. And the groups were no big fans of John McCain. But that won’t be the case in 2012. In 2010, it was just training wheels, and those training wheels will come off in 2012. There will be more bigger groups spending, and not just on one side but on both sides.
The last thing that will put more money in the system is Barack Obama did not take federal funds in 2008, but John McCain did, which limited how much he could spend. I would be shocked if in 2012 the Republican nominee took federal funds.
Barack Obama is going to spend an awful lot of money before he technically becomes the nominee, and that’s legally and technically primary spending. So you will see an immense amount of primary spending, but it will be by Obama against Republicans. Barack Obama in 2012 will spend more money on TV advertising against Republicans than probably Clinton and Obama spent combined advertising against each other.
I think [Mitt] Romney feels he probably doesn’t need to start advertising yet. And four years ago he’d already spent about $3 million. At this point I’d be shocked if Romney wasn’t the biggest spender [on the Republican side]. There’s big money for a member of Congress from Minnesota [Michele Bachmann], but she won’t be raising in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
And yes, we’ll see more online spending, we’ll see more spending everywhere. We’ll see more digital and digital advertising. But the problem for campaigns is online is how you preach to the converted, TV is how you reach the undecided, the passive viewers of politics.
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