President Barack Obama's re-election campaign has spent nearly $100 million on television commercials in key battleground states so far, unleashing a sustained early barrage designed to create lasting, negative impressions of Republican Mitt Romney before he and his allies ramp up for the November election.
The US president is chosen from state-by-state contests, rather than a nationwide popular vote. So battleground states which are neither reliably Republican nor Democratic are very important in tight elections, as this year's presidential vote is expected to be.
Reflecting campaign strategy, more than one-fifth of the president's ad spending has been in Ohio, a state that looms as a must-win for Romney more so than for Obama. Florida ranks second and Virginia third, according to organizations that track media spending and other sources.
About three-quarters of the president's advertising has been critical of Romney as Obama struggles to turn the election into a choice between himself and his rival, rather than a referendum on his own handling of the weak economy.
Obama's television ad spending dwarfs the Romney campaign's so far by a margin of 4-1 or more. It is at rough parity with the Republican challenger and several outside Republican-led organizations combined. They appear positioned to outspend the president and his allies this fall, perhaps heavily.
The latest attack ad, which began airing yesterday, accuses the Republican of favoring a 25% tax cut for millionaires, tax breaks for oil companies and corporations that move jobs overseas and a tax increase for working families. By contrast, it says, the president wants "the wealthy to pay a little more so the middle class pays less."
Democrats and even some Republicans agree the effort to cast Romney as an unfit steward for the economy shows sign of making some headway. Yet Republican Party strategists hasten to add that the former Massachusetts governor has ample time to counter, particularly with recent signs of a struggling economy and the fall campaign yet to begin.