With his trip to Davenport, Iowa, on Tuesday, President Barack Obama returns to a media market that he shunned in the 2008 presidential contest.
Even though Iowa is traditionally a swing state, the Obama campaign refused to air television ads in the general election in the Quad Cities because of the exorbitant cost, according to a campaign source.
One of the market’s weaknesses is its inefficiency. The Quad Cities includes five towns in eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois. But even though it’s a “spill market” that reaches just 11 percent of Iowa’s general election voters, the stations traditionally charge the highest rates in the state.
The Quad Cities market is slightly more expensive than Des Moines television (which covers 36 percent of the state) and considerably more than Cedar Rapids (which is almost three times the size of Quad Cities).
In a recent interview, Democratic consultant Pete Giangreco called the cost per vote in the media market “ridiculous.” Since the Obama campaign spent hundreds of millions of dollars nationwide, money was not the issue. But not spending in the Quad Cities became a source of pride for the Obama team.
Obama easily won Iowa in 2008, but Republicans took over the governorship and the state House in 2010, so the state is expected to be more competitive in 2012.
There is bipartisan distaste for the market.
“It is a royal pain in the ass,” according to one Republican media buyer. “Everyone faces the same issue when buying this market, and a lot of people refuse to deal with them because they just gouge you on the rates.”
But both parties are likely to be unable to avoid the Quad Cities altogether.
Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) will likely be running for re-election in a competitive race in the new 17th district that Democrats drew to defeat him. Republicans believe Rep. Dave Loebsack (D) could be vulnerable in Iowa’s newly drawn 2nd district.