By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writer Wed Oct 15, 4:19 PM ET
WASHINGTON - The Republican National Committee is halting presidential ads in Wisconsin and Maine, turning much of its attention to usually Republican states where GOP nominee John McCain shows signs of faltering.
The party's independent ad operation is doubling its budget to about $10 million and focusing on crucial states such as Colorado, Missouri, Indiana and Virginia where Democrat Barack Obama has established a foothold, according to a Republican strategist familiar with presidential ad placements.
Florida and North Carolina have also been in the RNC ad mix. Pennsylvania is the only Democratic leaning swing state apparently left in the party's ad campaign.
The shift in advertising resources suggests that the RNC has decided to focus on defending reliably Republican-voting states against Obama's onslaught of advertising. Flush with money, Obama is outspending the joint efforts of the Republican Party and the McCain campaign by more than 2-1.
While a pullout from Wisconsin is a significant strategic move, it does not represent a full GOP retreat from the state. McCain's campaign has notified Wisconsin stations that it planned to continue to buy air time through Oct. 26.
Like McCain, the RNC's independent ad operation has targeted Obama with critical ads.
The Republican Party has been helping McCain through various means. It had been spending more than $5 million a week on ads independently of the campaign. It also has teamed up with the campaign to run combined ads whose costs are split by the campaign and the RNC in certain situations allowed by federal election law.
Only the independent RNC spots will be affected by Wednesday's decision to shift ad spending.
Wisconsin has been a seriously contested state in seven of the last eight presidential elections. Democrats won narrowly in six of them. Al Gore and John Kerry barely edged out George Bush in the 2000 and the 2004 elections.
A poll in Wisconsin by Quinnipiac University of New York for The Wall Street Journal and the Web site of The Washington Post, taken after last week's presidential debate, had Obama at 54 percent and McCain at 37 percent.
"Like most campaigns, we don't talk strategy and tactics," said McCain Wisconsin spokeswoman Sarah Lenti. "That said we are extremely excited by our chances in Wisconsin and will continue to run ads, period. We are up and running."
Two weeks ago, McCain halted his spending in Michigan after polls there showed Obama with a growing lead.
The RNC had record fundraising in September, collecting more than $66 million. McCain, meanwhile, is largely limited to the $84 million he agreed to accept in public financing for September and October.
Obama, however, bypassed public financing and has continued to raise money during the campaign. His extraordinary spending suggests his fundraising is at record levels. His campaign has not revealed its September fundraising but must file financial reports with the federal Election Commission by Monday night.
Obama is holding a major fundraising concert Thursday in New York to benefit his campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The concert will feature performances by Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. Tickets range from $500 to $10,000.
In a sign of his vast resources, Obama has purchased millions of dollars in national network time, airing spots during the Major League Baseball playoffs and during Sunday NFL games. On Sunday, he spent more than $5 million on ads, about half of that on national network spots, according to Evan Tracey, head of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising.
According to Tracey's data and ad information from ad buyers, Obama spent about $32 million during the week ending last Sunday, McCain spent about $9 million and the RNC spent about $5 million.
Obama has made inroads in the traditional Republican strongholds Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. The two campaigns also are fighting for supremacy in Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico — all of which Bush won in 2004. They are also battling in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, states that John Kerry won.
McCain has led Obama in ad spending only in Iowa and Minnesota. But television stations in Minneapolis-St. Paul said Wednesday that Obama is increasing his spending and is committed to run ads through Nov. 3.