By Marcus Stern and Tim McLaughlin

Jan 5 (Reuters) - As political experts assess Republican Mitt Romney's failed U.S. presidential bid, an analysis of how his campaign and President Barack Obama's winning team used cable TV to target ads at specific groups of voters may offer some valuable tips for the future.

During the final weeks before the Nov. 6 election, with polls showing a tight race, Obama's campaign exploited cable TV's diverse lineup to target women on channels such as Food Network and Lifetime and men on networks such as ESPN.

The Obama team used the fragmentation of cable TV's audience to its fullest advantage to target tailored messages to voters in battleground states.

Meanwhile, Romney's campaign relied on a more traditional mass saturation of broadcast TV. The Romney camp was entirely dark on cable TV for two of the campaign's last seven days.

"We don't know why. This was a week before the election and you're in the fight for your life," said Timothy Kay, political director for NCC Media, a cable TV industry consortium.

The race had narrowed to key counties in several battleground states, the kind of isolation ideally suited for cable's geographical targeting and niche-marketing capabilities.

Republican Party operatives dismayed by Romney's defeat continue to debate what went wrong in a campaign awash in cash and run by a candidate with a business background. The former Massachusetts governor's campaign, like Democrat Obama's, spent a record-setting amount of cash; in Romney's case, it was $580 million in 20 months.

Obama's campaign outspent Romney's campaign on advertising by as much as $200 million, according to a Reuters analysis. But when spending by pro-Romney and pro-Obama outside groups is considered, Romney had the edge in overall TV advertising spending.

Republican consultants and advertising experts said Romney had enough money to compete with Obama's final advertising effort. Yet Obama cruised to a commanding Electoral College victory after a final concentration on a small group of battleground states.

"In market after market, the Obama campaign ended up putting more ads on target than the Romney campaign did," said Ken Goldstein, president of Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, a nonpartisan consulting firm that tracked political ads and worked with both campaigns.

Stephanie Kincaid, who managed Romney's advertising campaign, declined to answer questions and referred inquiries to top Romney campaign officials Stuart Stevens and Russell Schriefer, her bosses at The Stevens and Schriefer Group, a political consulting firm. They did not respond to phone calls.


Cable television political advertising jumped from $136 million in 2006 to $650 million in 2012, although broadcast TV still garnered 80 percent of the campaign advertising spending last year.

Even with major broadcast networks and their affiliates, the Obama campaign appeared to out-perform the Romney camp.

A campaign spending review shows the Obama camp frequently spent far less than Romney for ads aired by the same stations during the same shows.

For example, a review of TV station filings with the Federal Communications Commission showed Romney, on the Sunday before Election Day, paid $1,100 for an ad aired during CBS's "Face the Nation" program on WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina. Obama paid $200 for a comparable ad on the same station during the same program.

Part of the reason for the Obama campaign's pricing advantage is that the president faced no Democratic primary challenge and was able to buy autumn TV time months in advance when the slots - like airline tickets - were discounted. Romney faced a tough battle for the Republican nomination.

The Romney campaign also simply did not have enough bodies to handle the labor-intensive business of planning, negotiating and placing ads on hundreds of TV stations simultaneously, according to several Republican consultants and media analysts who asked not to be identified.

Obama's campaign had 30 full-time media buyers. The Romney campaign relied heavily on a single person, Kincaid, with help from one or two others from time to time, according to sources close to the campaign. Senior officials with the campaign declined to discuss its advertising staffing.

"It's the equivalent of having a budget the size of a Coca- Cola commercial campaign and having two people managing it, where a Madison Avenue agency might have 50 people," said NCC's Kay. Kincaid and her small staff were overwhelmed, according to numerous political vendors who dealt with them.

Jim Margolis, an Obama campaign senior adviser whose firm GMMB handled its advertising, said the campaign also took advantage of information provided by companies like Rentrak Corp, a Portland, Oregon-based company that monitors the digital boxes attached to TVs in households using satellite dishes.


In the past, political advertisers relied on the major networks rather than cable TV in a quest to reach the most television viewers.

But cable TV's increasing popularity has brought dramatic fragmentation to television viewership. In many markets, cable offers a hundred or more channels, giving advertisers a chance to target specific demographics.

For instance, the Obama campaign identified zip codes surrounding Ohio tire-manufacturing plants and purchased cable ads touting Obama's efforts to block tire imports from China.

Obama ran 600,000 cable ads to the Romney's 300,000 around the nation during the campaign, said NCC's Kay. Obama's cable TV push started in April. Romney's began in September.

Obama's team also mixed and matched its messages to sharpen the appeal in key counties.

"My impression was there was much more examination and analytics done with the Obama campaign," Kay said. "The Romney campaign had the same rigid schedule in every state." (Reporting by Marcus Stern in Washington and Tim McLaughlin in Boston; Editing by Claudia Parsons, Marilyn W. Thompson and Will Dunham)

Earlier on HuffPost:

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  • My Name Is...

    At a GOP presidential debate last November, Romney followed CNN host Wolf Blitzer's lead, giving his own attempt at an introduction. "I'm Mitt Romney -- and yes Wolf, that's also my first name," the former governor offered. <em>(Video at 1:22 mark)</em> That is entirely, completely, 100 percent, not true. Romney's first name is Willard. Willard Mitt Romney: Male, 65 years old, married, white, businessman-turned-governor-turned-potential-next president of the United States of America. His father, George Romney, a <a href="">Mexican-born</a> governor and onetime presidential candidate, named him after J. Willard Marriott, of Marriott hotel fame. His middle name, "Mitt," was apparently an homage to his father's cousin, Milton "Mitt" Romney. So, what Romney really should have said was, "I'm Mitt Romney -- and yes Wolf, that was the nickname of my first cousin once removed."

  • Obama Made Things Worse -- On Purpose

    In announcing his candidacy back in 2011, Romney gave birth to an untruth that has become a focal point of his campaign. "Barack Obama has failed America. When he took office, the economy was in recession. He made it worse," Romney declared. He's since broadened that claim in a number of ways, the falsest of them perhaps <a href="" target="_hplink">his suggestion</a> that Obama "knowingly slowed down our recovery" in order to create a climate that would allow for the passage of health care reform. None of this is true. If the point Romney had tried to make was that the economy is still weak, he would have been correct. Instead, he made a false statement in claiming that Obama had worsened the recession. Key economic indicators in areas such as the <a href="" target="_hplink">unemployment rate</a>, <a href="" target="_hplink">GDP growth</a> and the <a href="" target="_hplink">stock market</a> suggest that the economy has begun to climb out of recession, though more slowly than anyone could have hoped. In fact, when Romney was pressed on these facts in the days following his announcement, he <a href="" target="_hplink">ran from his earlier statement</a>, saying that he "didn't say things are worse." The second part of Romney's deceit comes from his twisted interpretation of <em>The Escape Artists</em>, a book by Noam Scheiber. The magnitude of Romney's untruth regarding Obama's supposed willful undermining of economic recovery is actually quite vast, but here's how New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait <a href="" target="_hplink">condensed the key takeaway</a>: <blockquote>First, and most importantly, at no point did anybody in the Obama administration ever believe that passing the Affordable Care Act would "slow down the recovery." Nothing close to that is ever described. Romney presents the book as revealing that Obama believed health-care reform, through its "big gummint" regulations, would harm the recovery, but cackling that he wanted to pass it out of some belief that Americans wouldn't notice mass economic suffering. This bears no relationship to anything the book says.</blockquote> <a href="" target="_hplink">Read the rest from Chait for more on Romney's whopper</a>.

  • Mitt's Tax Plan

    "I indicated as I announced my tax plan that the key principles included the following. First, that high-income people would continue to pay the same share of the tax burden that they do today. And second, that there would be a reduction in taxes paid by middle-income taxpayer," Romney said in an <a href="" target="_hplink">interview with Fortune Magazine</a>, responding to a criticism of his plan by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. "We are not going reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income individuals, and we're certainly not going to increase the taxes paid by middle-income taxpayers." Romney and his campaign have since made repeated attempts to reinforce their claim that the tax plan will lower the burden on all Americans and still remain deficit neutral, all by eliminating loopholes -- which they've refuse to specify. Well, that sounds nice, but it isn't true. It can't be, and Romney keeps saying it. The math just isn't on his side. At the bare minimum, Romney has said he'd reduce income tax rates by 20 percent, repeal the estate tax and eliminate the alternative minimum tax. <a href="" target="_hplink">Without the details</a> about which tax loopholes and deductions he'd eliminate to pay for it, the Tax Policy Center and a number of <a href="">other analysts</a> <a href="" target="_hplink">have maintained that Romney's blueprint</a> would actually provide a windfall for the richest Americans, while <a href="">shifting some of the burden</a> onto the middle class. From what Romney is saying, there's no way his tax plan would work. Simply saying that it would, without providing any additional detail to back it up, hasn't changed any expert's mind. But that hasn't stopped Romney from continuing to insist that the math makes sense <a href="">depending on which budget baseline</a> and reports you look at. It turns out the "six studies" Romney and Paul Ryan have turned to for support on their plan, <a href="">don't actually</a> back them up, at least <a href="">not in the way</a> they claim.

  • Obamacare, Romneycare And Mandates

    This has always been one of Romney's most glaring vulnerabilities. He's claimed that he didn't support an individual mandate on health insurance and insisted that he never said his plan for Massachusetts' health care reform should be used as a national model. He's also attempted to portray Obamacare as a law that will rob Americans of choice when it comes to choosing their health insurance, and claimed inaccurately at the second presidential debate that Obamacare has increased insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. This is absolutely false. Romney was once an unapologetic supporter of the individual mandate, and <a href="" target="_hplink">quite</a> <a href="" target="_hplink">publicly</a> <a href="" target="_hplink">in fact</a>, at least until his most recent foray into presidential politics. Romney has also attempted to destroy the notion that he believed the Massachusetts model should be replicated nationally. Of course, this becomes difficult when numerous <a href="" target="_hplink">op-eds</a> and <a href="" target="_hplink">interviews</a> emerge showing a Romney who encouraged health care reformers to adopt the individual mandate, which Obamacare has since done, in order to craft a system that can offer affordable health care to a greater number of Americans. Romney also appears to have repeatedly and deliberately misled about details of Obamacare to portray it as a plan that eliminates health insurance choice by design. The Affordable Care Act, implemented through state-regulated exchanges, is designed to give consumers options about which private plans they want for coverage. As The Huffington Post's Jeffrey Young <a href="">points out</a>, Romney's math on the rising costs of health care insurance is wrong. The total average increase of premiums from 2009 through 2012 has been $2,370 -- not the $2,500 a year stated by Romney. The average hike in the employee's share comes to $801 over that period. Health insurance premiums <a href="">almost doubled from 2002 to 2012</a> as the cost of health care continues to rise faster than the economy has grown, but <a href="">has slowed in recent years</a>. Read more from Young's report <a href="">here</a>.

  • 'Binders Full Of Women'

    Defending his credentials on women's issues during the second presidential debate, Romney claimed that he'd sought out female candidates to fill his cabinet as governor of Massachusetts. Romney said that, at his direction, a women's group put together "binders full of women" who were qualified for various positions. Romney then boasted about how many of them he'd gone on to hire. Romney's story is a work of fiction. As The Huffington Post's Laura Bassett <a href="" target="_hplink">reports</a>, the situation played out differently: <blockquote>In fact, Romney did not direct women's groups to bring him female candidates, <a href="" target="_hplink">Boston Pheonix reporter David Bernstein points out</a>. A non-partisan collaboration of women’s groups called <a href="" target="_hplink">Massachusetts Government Appointments Project (MassGAP)</a> was responsible for the effort in 2002, when the group's leaders realized that women held only 30 percent of the top appointed positions in the state.</blockquote> MassGAP had independently prepared the binder before they knew who would win the governorship. Furthermore, according to a <a href="" target="_hplink">later MassGAP study</a>, Romney may be truthful in touting his 42 percent female-appointment rate during his first two and a half years as governor, but that figure ignores the fact that the number of women in high-level appointed positions actually declined to 27.6 percent during his full tenure.

  • Raiding Medicare

    "There's only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call 'Obamacare,'" Romney <a href="" target="_hplink">said during an interview</a> on CBS' "60 Minutes." There's not a shred of truth to this. The figure Romney points to is actually a $716 billion cost cut out of Medicare over the next decade. According to a <a href="" target="_hplink">report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office</a>, Obamacare will effectively save $716 billion, while maintaining the same operations and fulfilling promises to Medicare recipients. Under Obama's plan, these savings would then be reallocated to implement other parts of the Affordable Care Act. Notably, the same savings appear in Rep. Paul Ryan's budget.

  • Dog On A Roof

    Romney once strapped his Irish Setter Seamus and its crate to the roof of the family station wagon during trip to Canada in 1983. The whole bizarre incident has been a huge nuisance for the GOP presidential candidate. Seriously, it even has it's own <a href="">Wikipedia page</a>. In his many efforts to explain what happened on that voyage, Romney has told people both that his dog liked "fresh air," and that the crate was, in fact, air tight. It isn't possible for both statements to be accurate. Seamus either liked "fresh air," or was sealed into an air-tight transportation chamber. It was more likely neither, but it certainly can't be both.

  • Welfare Reform

    Romney and his campaign went all in on an all-out falsehood this summer, claiming in interviews and ads that Obama ended a requirement that people on welfare must meet certain work requirements. Despite being called baseless and factually incorrect -- which they are -- Romney has defended the attacks and furthered their use in campaign speeches and anti-Obama attack ads. The Huffington Post's Arthur Delaney <a href="">breaks down</a> the distinction between fact and fiction: <blockquote>Here is what actually happened: At the request of several states -- including two with Republican governors -- the Obama administration <a href="" target="_hplink">announced in July</a> that it would consider waiving certain federal welfare rules if states have ideas for "demonstration projects" they promise can increase welfare employment outcomes by 20 percent (states are required to maintain certain percentages of welfare beneficiaries in work activities or else face penalties). The administration has not announced that it has issued any waivers. But instead of saying something to the effect that the administration has potentially removed welfare work requirements, or perhaps opened the door for their eventual removal -- even those phrasings would be a big stretch -- the Romney campaign <a href="" target="_hplink">has been saying</a>, "Obama quietly ended work requirements for welfare."</blockquote>

  • 'You Didn't Build That'

    When Obama uttered the four words, "You didn't build that" at a campaign event over the summer, Republicans worked themselves into a frenzy trying to paint it as proof that Obama is an anti-business president who demonizes entrepreneurship and believes the government is solely responsible for economic success. They even dedicated an entire day to the phrase at the Republican National Convention. Weeks later, DNC planners were no doubt wishing Romney's <a href="">"47 percent" video</a> had leaked earlier. But unlike that video, the "you didn't build that" campaign was built on an absolute mischaracterization and false premise. Besides the fact that this small segment <a href="">was cherry-picked out of larger speech</a> to make an argument that Obama wasn't actually trying to make, the numbers don't back up the GOP's assertion. Over the course of his first term, Obama has <a href="">enacted a series</a> of small business tax cuts, incentives and loan programs. Monthly data for small businesses has also shown modest gains in some key areas. <a href="">Bloomberg Businessweek relayed one of those points</a> earlier this year: <blockquote>Job creation at small companies has also been pretty robust when compared with the previous recovery. In the 33 months since the current recovery began, small employers added 2.6 million jobs, a 2.9 percent increase in employment, ADP figures show. By contrast, in the first 33 months of the recovery from the 2001 recession, small employers added 1.8 million jobs, a 2.1 percent increase.</blockquote>

  • Bain Capital Timeline

    Romney says he played no part in executive decision-making related to Bain Capital after 1999, as he left the company to organize the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Romney has steadfastly clung to this unmitigated untruth. There is a wealth of evidence, most of it provided by Romney himself, that would suggest he remained at least somewhat actively involved in Bain's decision-making processes until well after the 1999 date he provided. Reports by the <a href="" target="_hplink">Boston Globe</a>, <a href="" target="_hplink">Mother Jones</a> and <a href="" target="_hplink">Talking Points Memo</a> all pointed to Romney's own filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which listed him as the "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president" of Bain, an "executive" who drew a six-figure salary in 2001 and 2002. According to a <a href="" target="_hplink">report</a> from The Huffington Post's Jason Cherkis and Ryan Grim, subsequent testimony from Romney in front of the SEC appeared to corroborate the dates listed on those documents. <a href="" target="_hplink">Read their entire piece for a more in-depth account of Romney's Bain departure.</a>

  • Hands On Our Hearts

    At a campaign stop in February, Romney made his best effort to promote American exceptionalism with a rousing, and entirely false, claim. "We are the only people on the earth that put our hand over our heart during the playing of the national anthem," he said. There is zero truth to this unusual claim. The United States isn't the only country to do this. Not even close. The Washington Post provided an <a href="" target="_hplink">anecdotal smattering</a> of additional examples in a subsequent fact check, but Romney is just plain wrong on this one.

  • Auto Bailout

    Romney has claimed he deserves credit for the turnaround of the American auto industry because Obama took his ideas in helping to foster its eventual recovery. "I pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy, and finally when that was done, and help was given, the companies got back on their feet," Romney <a href="">said in an interview</a> earlier this year. "So, I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry has come back." He <a href="">also tried to walk a similar line</a>, repeating this relentless falsehood at the second presidential debate. Weeks after the 2008 election, Romney penned an op-ed in the New York Times titled "<a href="">Let Detroit Go Bankrupt</a>." In it, he argued that the proposed bailout for the American automobile industry would prevent it from making the changes it would need to achieve longterm success. The eventual assistance offered to American car companies, first by President George W. Bush and then under Obama, didn't prevent all of them from going bankrupt. Chrysler and GM both filed for bankruptcy in mid-2009, and Romney has used this point to attempt to draw parallels to his stated plan, as well as argue that Obama wasted billions of dollars by not forcing them into bankruptcy earlier. But David Shepardson of the Detroit News <a href="">points out</a> that there are clear differences between how Obama acted and what Romney had planned: <blockquote>Obama's auto task force used a section under the bankruptcy code to use government money to buy the "good assets" of GM and Chrysler in bankruptcy by outbidding anyone else, allowing the companies to exit in just 40 days. If Romney's course had been adopted, GM and Chrysler could have been in bankruptcy for months or years before exiting -- and would have had much more debt on their balance sheets.</blockquote> Following Obama's action, the auto industry rebounded, and thousands of jobs were saved or created. Economists Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder <a href="">wrote</a> that this success could not have been achieved without the financial help Romney opposed.

  • Iran Nuclear Policy

    In March, Romney <a href="">crafted an attack on Obama</a> that he's since echoed when criticizing the president on foreign policy: “This is a president who has failed to put in place crippling sanctions against Iran. He’s also failed to communicate that military options are on the table and in fact in our hand, and that it’s unacceptable to America for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” This claim holds no connection to the truth. The Obama administration, together with Congress, has <a href="">passed measures</a> that impose <a href="">tough new sanctions</a> on Iran's energy sector and financial system. Together with key western allies, the U.S. has also passed sanctions through the UN Security Council that target the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which controls the Iranian nuclear program. The U.S. also pressed European Union countries to agree to an oil embargo on Iran that took effect this past summer. Obama has also repeatedly said that it is unacceptable for Iran to get a nuclear weapon. He <a href="">told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic</a>: <blockquote>“I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."</blockquote>

  • Disenfranchising Veterans

    The Obama administration <a href="">tried to take away</a> early voting rights for veterans in Ohio, Romney has claimed. This is 100 percent false. When Ohio Republicans eliminated early voting on weekends for all except veterans this year, the Obama administration sued to keep the Saturday and Sunday window open for all voters. The Romney camp attempted to spin this as a move to strip veterans of voting privileges, when in fact it was a move by the administration to expand voting opportunities for everyone.

  • AAA Credit Rating

    <a href="">Obama is to blame</a> for the nation's AAA credit rating being downgraded, Romney has suggested on a number of instances. But the actual truth tells a much different story here. According to an <a href="">analysis from Standard & Poor's</a>, the rating agency that downgraded America's credit rating from AAA to AA+ in the summer of 2011, the decision to downgrade was partially because "the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues." As <a href="">has been reported</a>, Obama struck a deal to avoid the growing threat of default but was undermined by Tea Party Republicans who backed out of the compromise at the last minute, continuing their game of political brinksmanship. As S&P put it, "The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy." Republican obstructionism played a significant part in the downgrade.

  • Obama's Jobs Plan

    Romney has frequently attempted to claim that Obama has not put forth a jobs plan. At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Romney said, "And unlike the president, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs." Another unrestrained, truth-free statement. Obama's jobs plan, the <a href="" target="_hplink">American Jobs Act (2011)</a>, was shot down by Congress after he promised that his plan wouldn't add to the deficit. While Obama's legislation hasn't passed, it does, in fact, exist. As for Romney's plan to create "12 million new jobs," Moody Analytics projects that the untouched economy <a href="">would produce something close to that</a> over the next 4 years, regardless of who is in the White House.

  • Obama Apologizes For America

    Over the course of his campaign, Romney has frequently suggested that Obama is guilty of "apologizing for America" instead of standing up for the nation's interests. This is one of Romney's favorite criticisms, and entirely untrue. Fact-checkers and other people with eyes and ears have consistently debunked Romney's claims each time they're made, pointing out that the word "apology" simply doesn't apply to the actions and words Obama has used. PolitiFact <a href="">perhaps put it best</a> in the wake of Romney's <a href="">highly criticized decision</a> to use the terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya as an opportunity to criticize the president: <blockquote>This is a theme for Romney: He has long accused Obama of apologizing for America, starting in 2010, when Romney published No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. Since then, he has repeatedly criticized what he has called an "apology tour" by Obama shortly after he took office. PolitiFact has examined those speeches, consulted experts on speechmaking and apologies, and rated Romney's claim Pants on Fire.</blockquote> Obama might have some things he thinks America needs to apologize for, but sorry, he's not saying so.

  • Trade Deals

    On numerous occasions, Romney has claimed that Obama "has not signed one new free-trade agreement" since entering office. That's inarguably false. The president has signed multiple free-trade deals, with <a href="">Colombia</a>, <a href="">Panama</a> and <a href="">South Korea</a>. They've all been approved by Congress and signed by Obama. The agreements didn't go over without a hitch. Organized labor forces opposed some of the specifics, but ironically, many of the pro-business, GOP-aligned forces that Romney represents <a href="">hailed their passage</a> as a strong step in the right direction. Romney, on the other hand, has chosen to pretend they don't exist. His campaign claims the statement is strictly true, arguing that the deals are not "new" because they were first negotiated under the Bush administration, and only completed under this administration.