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October 17th Update on Presidential Visits and Spending

Released October 17, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE              
Contact: Laura Kirshner, Presidential Election Reform Program
October 17, 2008      (301) 270-4616   [email protected]

With three weeks to go until Election Day, the Presidential candidates are narrowing down the list of states where they are focusing resources and time; and, in what should be no surprise, Ohio is now the most-visited state, and Florida and Pennsylvania lead the pack the campaign ad spending. Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania were also the three most important states in 2004, when the conventional wisdom-- and ultimately correct assessment -- was that the candidate winning at least two of those states would take the White House.

FairVote has tracked presidential and vice-presidential candidate visits since September 6, the first day after the Republican convention. Ohio topped the list of campaign visits during the week of October 8 to 14, receiving 28% of the week's visits. Three states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, received 60% of the week's visits. The previous visit leader, Michigan, did not receive a single visit. Signaled by John McCain's decision to pull back from the state, this change is in line with our predictions in last week's release. Nearly two-thirds of all states - 34 states- have not received a single public visit this fall from either Presidential candidate (FairVote's definition of states visits exclude fundraisers, scheduled debates and visits to candidates' home states).

FairVote's executive director Rob Richie commented, "The list of spectator states include both the small and the large, the east and the west, the South and the North. But nearly every single spectator state shares one feature: no one expects it be a tipping point that might decide the 2008 election. In our current Electoral College system, once a state is not competitive, its voters and their concerns are irrelevant to the campaigns."


Major Party Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidate Campaign Visits: Week of 10/8-10/14

State                            Number of visits
1. Ohio                               7
2. Pennsylvania                    5
3. Wisconsin                        3
4. Virginia                            2
5. Missouri                           2
6. Florida                             2
7. New Hampshire                 1
8. Minnesota                        1
9. Iowa                               1
10. North Carolina                 1

Top Ten States for Total Campaign Visits: September 6 to October 14 (Full listing at www.fairvote.org/tracker)

  State                    % of total visits      (Ranking-% of visits as of previous week)
1. Ohio                         12.6%                (2 - 10.3%)
2. Pennsylvania               9.8%                 (3 - 9.3%)
3. Florida                        9.8%                (7 - 6.2%)
4. Michigan                     8.4%                (1 - 12.4%)
5. Virginia                       8.4%                (4 - 8.3%)
6. Wisconsin                    7.7%               (7 - 6.2%)
7. Missouri                      6.3%                (6  - 7.2%)
8. Colorado                      6.3%                (4 - 8.3%)
9. New York                     5.6%                (9 - 5.2%)
10. New Hampshire            3.5%                (10 - 4.1%)

The patterns of campaign visits tell us which states matter to the campaigns--and which do not. New information from TNS Media Intelligence on campaign advertisements in the various states supports the reality of how the campaigns are focused on a declining number of states. Spending in Michigan has dropped drastically over the last week, with McCain going from spending $720,000 on advertisements to zero. The states topping the list for campaign visits also top the list for campaign advertisements:

Television Ad Spending, October 6-12

In thousands.
*Numbers presented as money spent this week/last week
State            McCain            Obama             Total            Total change since last week
FL               1154 / 686      4330 / 2224        5484 / 2910        +2574
PA             1780 / 1322      3337 / 2264        5117 / 3586        +1531
VA                285 / 319       3305 / 1969       3590 / 2288        +1302
OH              816 / 1128       2362 / 2229        3178 / 3357         -179
IN                       0 / 0        1 804 / 628          1804 / 628       +1176
NC                833 / 157       1208 / 1180        2041 / 1337        +704
WI                 622 / 710      1189 / 1158        1811 / 1868           -57
MO                674 / 200      1141 / 1586        1815 / 1786          -723
CO                647 / 838          923 / 987        1570 / 1825          -255
NM                297 / 320         878 / 198          1175 / 518            657
NV                 416 / 320         878 / 626          1294 / 946         +348
MN                531 / 652          560 / 237          1091 / 889        +202
IA                 434 / 299          376 / 176            810 / 475        +335
NH                 118 / 189         470 / 349            588 / 538          +50
ME                     37 / 0           154 / 59              191 / 59        +132
MT                      0 / 0           173 / 73              173 / 73        +100
WV                   59 / 46             34 / 52               93 / 98            -5
Total           8800 / 9360   32242/17867    41042 / 27227    +13815

*Source http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/10/15/143149/87

Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio beat out the other states both in terms of visits and in terms of ad spending. Campaign visits and ad spending as measures of campaign attention yield very similar results. Michigan dropped the most in the Visits rankings, and it also had the biggest drop in ad spending between this week and last week. Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia had the largest increases in spending over the past week. Ohio had a drop in ad spending, primarily because McCain must focus his resources on competitive states that will yield higher electoral votes.

This week's figures confirm our previous findings that only a handful of states receive the vast majority of campaign attention from the candidates. The amount of money spent on campaign advertisements in the top 10 states during last week alone totals to $28 million. 17 states had over $43 million pumped into their local economies this week, while voters in the 33 states had no ad spending at all. This amount of total spending will likely increase in the final weeks before Election Day, but we expect that spending to be allocated primarily to an even smaller number of closely contested states. Voters in the other 2/3 of the country can still expect the same thing as usual--not much.

For several election cycles, the states considered to be battleground states in close election have been largely the same. Election after election, most voters are still left out of the campaign spotlight while a handful of swing-state voters get all the candidates' attention. The impact of this disparity can be measured by voter participation. In 2004, eligible voters under 30 living in one of the 10 closest battleground states were more than a third more likely to participate than were voters in the rest of the nation.

FairVote has posted its full candidate trackers at http://fairvote.org/tracker. Visitors to http://fairvote.org/president will find information on the National Popular Vote plan, which promises to make 2008 the last year with the current Electoral College system, and our 2006 report Presidential Elections Inequality that provides detailed information on the last four decades of presidential elections and the impact of the current Electoral College system on the 2004 elections.

FairVote will continue to collect data on campaign visits up until Election Day to see how the focus of each campaign changes. We will issue weekly updates of our candidate tracker, supplemented by data on campaign financing.  We also will plan to release an updated version of our Presidential Elections Inequality report soon after the election that will allow us to anticipate what states are likely to be battleground states in 2012 Our report will include a detailed analysis of campaign attention based on visits, spending, and advertisements in each state by each of the two major party campaigns and their independent backers.