In Indianas 9th district, Rep. Baron Hill started running a modest 400-points-per-week buy in the Louisville media market in mid-August. At the beginning of September, he supplemented it with cable buys in four markets, running almost $350,000 in TV ads through the end of September.
Hills opponent, Todd Young, started a 500-points-per-week TV buy Sept. 6. A small buy (300 points per week) by the American Future Fund began Sept. 9, and the NRCCs independent expenditure TV buy of almost 1,000 points per week just began recently and is scheduled to continue through Election Day.
Hill had the early advantage, but that advantage has disappeared, and now that the DCCC has cancelled its Oct. 5-18 TV buys for Hill, it looks as if the Congressman wont have a media advantage until possibly mid-October, when the DCCC is scheduled to go up on the air for him in multiple markets.
The problem with late advertising is that while voters are paying attention to the contests which should make them persuadable by ads there are reasons why those voters will be more resistant to the messages.
The sheer number of TV spots, direct-mail pieces and automated telephone calls received by voters in the last month before an election can cause voters to turn off completely, ignoring political campaign messages as if they were some sort of unwanted media spam that is immediately destined to be deleted.
And in states like Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Ohio, where statewide contests fight for air time with Congressional races, the political media overload is likely to severely devalue any candidate who isnt running TV spots at Meg Whitman-like levels.
If you are a voter in Hills district, for example, you may be exposed to ads from both the Indiana and Kentucky Senate races, as well as from candidates running in other Congressional districts. If you are in Kosmas district, youll have to contend with ads from the Florida gubernatorial and Senate races, as well as from other House contests.
Moreover, after weeks of advertising, voters already know the fundamental messages of the campaigns. A campaign trailing on Oct. 1 better have some killer new information in its October advertising if it is going to get attention from increasingly cynical voters.
In Texas 17th district, Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards bought almost 7,000 gross ratings points between Aug. 27 and Sept. 27 on Waco broadcast TV, pummeling his Republican opponent, Bill Flores.
Unfortunately for Edwards, Flores bought about 4,000 points, and the NRCC chipped in about another 1,500 points. American Future Fund checked in with about another 1,000 points during the same period (None of these figures include the cable TV purchased by the candidates or the political committees). Voters, in short, have already heard many attacks.
A few elections will likely turn on late campaign developments, possibly an ad, a weak debate performance or an issue introduced at the last minute. And a big national news story can obviously have a significant effect on Novembers results.
But for most races, the die will be cast around the beginning of October. Either the early ads changed opinion or they didnt. And that is why the last month of most campaigns is actually less decisive than you may think it is.
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