By choosing to spend several million dollars each on commercials that will run simultaneously in more than a dozen states over the next 10 days -and, in Mr. Obama’s case, on CNN and MSNBC as well -Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton are being driven by the tight nature of the race thus far and by the bunching of Democratic nominating contests in 22 states on Feb. 5.
All told, the Clinton and Obama campaigns are each believed to be spending at least $2 million a week on television advertising in the days before what is being billed as Super Tuesday -Mr. Obama’s cable advertising bill alone is an estimated $1 million -sums so large that it could make it harder for them to afford advertising in states with later contests if the nomination is not settled that day.
Even the cable networks said they were caught off guard by the decision of Mr. Obama’s campaign to take to the air nationally nearly 10 months before the November election, instead of just focusing on local advertising in states holding contests on Feb. 5.
By contrast the GOP’s ad dollars are focused on Florida, and after Florida only the Romney campaign will have the ability to follow the example of the Democrats and turn towards a national television strategy.
If one of the parties can settle on its nominee quickly as the other sees its contenders trade blows for months, this would be a considerable advantage for the former over the latter, both in terms of defining the terms of the fall campaign and in the ability to spend time and effort in uniting while the divisions deepen in the opposite camp.