The disparity, with Republicans spending $41.7 million and Democrats spending $23.5 million, illustrates a strategic gamble on behalf of the GOP presidential nominee to bury President Barack Obama and burn past him during the closing weeks of the campaign.
"Patience is a virtue," one Republican source said of the decision to hold resources until the last weeks of the campaign.
The Republican source, who like all others would only discuss ad buying strategy and details on condition of anonymity, put the ad disparity at somewhat smaller than $18 million. The source offered the following data for the money being spent on both national cable and swing state television ads between Oct. 8 and Oct. 14.
1. Romney campaign: $17.7 million
2. Obama campaign: $16.5 million
3. The Karl Rove-started American Crossroads: $7 million
4. The Romney supporting super-PAC Restore Our Future: $6 million
5. The Obama supporting super-PAC Priorities USA: $4.2 million
6. The National Rifle Association: $1.3 million
7. The conservative American Future Fund: $400k
The reason that the Democratic breakdown of ad spending numbers is different than the Republican breakdown is owed to the fact that they included radio ad expenditures as well as additional advertisers. For instance, Planned Parenthood is set to spend $1 million on ads this week, while the Republican Jewish Coalition is set to spend $1.2 million. The disparity could grow larger going forward. On Friday evening, the Washington Post reported that Restore our Future was upping the ante even further, booking $14 million of ads in nine battleground states for the last week of October. A request for comment from Priorities USA was not immediately returned.
Combined with Romney's strong debate performance, the money being spent on the airwaves seems likely to have elevated the Republican candidate's standing nationally and in the battleground states.
But not all money spent on television ads is equal. Outside groups and super PACs, for instance, can not qualify for the lowest unit rate for ad slots, which can mean that they end up spending up to three times as much for the same amount of air time. In addition, the Romney campaign has pursued an ad-hoc ad buying strategy -- booking spots week-by-week as opposed to in month-long chunks -- that gives it more flexibility but costs more money.
So while the Romney campaign and its allies may be spending more on television ads this week, it's difficult to ascertain how much (if any) advantage they have with respect to the number of ads actually aired.
That said, a recent Washington Post article indicated that Romney was making up ground on that front as well.
Still, the ad wars raise an interesting question for the Obama campaign. If all that's needed in the race to 270 Electoral College votes is a victory in Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin (provided the president holds on to Michigan and Pennsylvania), why not take resources from one of the more difficult-to-win swing states and send them there?
"Absolutely not," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said, when asked whether the campaign is considering this, during a conference call Thursday morning. "Look, we understand that we need as many pathways to 270 electoral votes. That’s been the theory of this campaign since April of 2011. We think we have a path to victory in all our battleground states and we are going to go prosecute those paths. And because of our outpouring of supports from our grassroots donors we have the ability financially to compete everywhere we want to compete. And that’s what we are going to do."