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Swing States and Swing Media Markets: Presidential Tracker Update, October 3, 2012

by Andrea Levien, Presidential Tracker // Published October 3, 2012

There are 34 days left before Election Day, and the candidates have yet to campaign in 40 states since the end of the Democratic National Convention, which ended September 7. But don't take that to mean that the candidates are sitting on their laurels. They're just being strategic, focusing on the only states where campaigning might earn them more electoral votes under to the "winner-take-all" rule.  Since the end of the conventions, the candidates have held events in the following states.

 

Obama

Biden

Romney

Ryan

Total

Colorado

1

0

4

2

7

Florida

6

3

4

2

15

Iowa

1

3

1

5

10

Nevada

2

0

1

1

4

New Hampshire

1

3

1

2

7

North Carolina

0

2

0

0

2

Ohio

4

4

6

5

19

Pennsylvania

0

1

1

0

2

Virginia

2

1

4

2

9

Wisconsin

1

1

0

1

3

 

As we can see, the candidates are clearly prioritizing Ohio, Florida, and Iowa, while also spending a great deal of attention on Colorado, New Hampshire, and Virginia. The states receiving some visits, but not many, are states that are trending toward one candidate or the other - according to FiveThirtyEight's polling aggregates, Obama is leading pretty handily in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, by about 6.3% and 8.2% respectively - and North Carolina is currently leaning towards Romney by about 1.5%. In addition, the candidates are still visiting states from which they can fundraise or appear on national television (namely, New York, California, and Texas).

It's also instructive to look at how candidates are spending their money by media market, as in some cases, it shows how much a candidate is willing to spend to reach voters in a small pocket of a swing state.

According to the Washington Post's 'Mad Money' Tracker, the media markets that have received the most money so far this year are as follows.

 

Obama campaign

Romney Campaign

Total

Washington, DC

$12.5 million

6.2

18.7

Cleveland, OH

11.9

5.3

17.2

Charlotte, NC

10.0

6.9

16.9

Las Vegas, NV

11.6

4.7

16.3

Tampa, FL

8.2

6.9

15.1

Denver, CO

9.8

4.4

14.2

Orlando, FL

8.6

5.4

14.0

Miami, FL

6.3

4.8

11.1

Columbus, OH

5.9

3.4

9.3

Boston, MA

5.7

2.1

7.8

 

Most of the cities on this list are not surprising; all but two are the biggest cities in the most competitive swing states. The two outliers, Boston and D.C., are not competitive cities by any stretch of the imagination. They do however border the swing states of New Hampshire and Virginia. Although Boston's media market covers all of eastern Massachusetts, the fact that it also covers about a third New Hampshire means that the candidates are willing to shell out millions of dollars to reach that third. The same goes for the D.C. market, which covers all of Maryland - a safe state - but also covers the northernmost tip of Virginia, which is a swing state.

There is a clear willingness to spend money in other media markets that might affect electoral votes, even if those markets cover stretches of safe state territory. For example, because the Omaha, Nebraska market covers part of southwestern Iowa, and also because there is a small chance that Omaha's one electoral vote, which is allocated on a congressional district basis, could swing to Obama, his campaign has spent $1.2 million there. Another example is Charleston, West Virginia, the capital of a state which heavily favors Romney, but whose media market covers a small section of southern Ohio.

While it is nice for residents in some safe states to experience being wooed by the presidential campaigns (or not nice, if they hate political ads), they are among a select few. The candidates have not aired a single ad in such media markets as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Houston, nor are they likely do so for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, none of the states in which these media markets are located are expected to become battleground in 2016, so residents in those cities are out of political luck for the foreseeable future.

Stay tuned for our analysis of trends in state partisanship in 2012 and what that might mean for the 2016 election.