We've said for months that the presidential race going to be close and that it could all boil down to the direction of the economy in the final weeks. Regardless, the president's campaign figured the end of August could be a lot more important than other people think.
In the last week of August and the first week of September, our attention was focused on the conventions, but during those weeks, something else was also at play in the swing states. The Obama campaign was running political ads attacking Mitt Romney. Analysts at the Wesleyan Media Project say those ads defined Romney as anti-auto bailout, anti-woman and anti-middle class. And the number of ads was overwhelming -- the Obama campaign ran twice as many ads as Romney and all of Romney's supporters combined.
"The feeling on the part of the Romney camp was that they didn't have to do that, it was too early, there weren't enough people paying attention, they were going to wait until the convention and afterwards," said political scientist Henry Brady, Ph.D., from UC Berkeley's Goldman School.
Brady says Obama's campaign was helped by Romney's missteps.
"The comments about the Middle East, the 47 percent comments," said Brady.
And that has played into the picture of Romney the Obama campaign was trying to paint. And there is one other advantage in going early, as the airwaves in swing states become saturated with political ads, now from both sides. Television stations are required to give the candidates a discounted rate in the 60 days before the election, but the discounts apply only to candidates. Political parties and outside groups like super PACs are not entitled.
The Washington Post reports that in Ohio a 30-second slot that costs the Obama campaign $125 is costing a conservative super PACs $900.
Romney could get that discounted rate, but as we've reported much of the money Romney has raised has been in high dollar donors, with the money going to the Republican National Committee, not to Romney's campaign.
"The people representing Romney have to spend three, four, five times as much, then obviously you've got only one third, or one quarter, or one-fifth the number of ads you can run," said Brady.
It's a problem for the Romney campaign. So as you hear about the big convention bounce that the president got and Mitt Romney didn't, consider there were other factors at play. We're not seeing those ads in California, but they sure are in the swing states.