The most useful news about the presidential primary races I
came across in the last 24 hours - especially for those of us who watch the survey
data - comes not from any new poll but rather from a little known media researcher
named Evan Tracey. Even better news for political junkies (as I learned via
links by First
Read and Ben
Smith), Tracey blogs on Advertising Age's "Campaign Trial."
Who is Even Tracey and why should you read him? Tracey is
the founder and chief operating offer of something called the Campaign Media Analysis Group
(CMAG) that performs a unique service for its very high paying political clients.
It systematically monitors the transmissions of the national broadcast
networks, 25 national cable networks and local advertising in the countries top
100 markets, uses software to electronically identify and code unique
advertisements. They are also now apparently tracking Internet advertising as
well. Through this process, CMAG compiles detailed reports on what candidates
are spending on broadcast and cable advertising, what ads they are running and
how many times viewers are seeing them (more details on their methodology here and here).
As a campaign pollster, I had the opportunity to be on the
receiving end of CMAG's tracking service just once, and it was absolutely
phenomenal. No media tracking report I saw in 20 years as a campaign pollster
was anywhere near as throughout or detailed. Unfortunately (for all of us),
Tracey charges his clients a high price for his data and is understandably
reluctant to give away his bread and butter.
Simply put, no one has better data on the candidates' ad
spending, and this is why I am excited to see Tracey sharing a smattering of
his valuable data online. More often than not, the ad expenditures by the
candidates explain the trends we see in the early state charts here at
Yesterday, for example, Tracey tells us that
on the Republican side:
Mitt Romney has aired nearly 10,000
TV spots since late February and spent close to $8 million dollars with a
majority of his spending in Iowa and New Hampshire. He is now
expanding this strategy to South Carolina and Florida.
Meanwhile, he writes, the other Republicans have either
placed token ad buys or run nothing at all. McCain's new ad
has been airing for just the last week. Take a look at our charts for Iowa and New Hampshire
Republicans and you will see the sharp increase for Romney in the second and
third quarters of 2007 that does not occur in South Carolina or
check that just released ARG survey in South Carolina that
shows a huge upward spike (from 9% to 26%) for Romney. That change may turn out
to be an outlier, but it would not be a surprising change given what Tracey
Of course, observers should also keep in mind that until
McCain's buy started last week, none of the other Republicans have run ads. So
a huge question for the early states is whether Romney's lead will hold as
other candidates begin to air their own advertisements.
Now consider what Tracey tells us about the Democrats:
Bill Richardson leads the pack,
airing over 4,000 commercials in an effort to move up in the polls in the early
states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Barack Obama is close behind
with close to $2 million invested in TV time, mostly in Iowa. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards,
because of their profiles, were able to skip the typical bio spots and have
spent far less. The Edwards campaign has made relatively small buys in Iowa and New Hampshire,
but has also used ad buys tactically on cable TV and in Washington
to inject himself into the Iraq
war debate. Clinton, on the other hand, has
spent over $1 million on TV in just five weeks and her latest buys on South Carolina radio
signal the campaign is serious about running the table on the early primaries.
Others on the Democratic side of
the ledger have gotten in on the act with the Biden and Dodd campaigns
combining for over $1 million dollars in TV ad spending with compelling
messages about the war and global warming.
Not surprisingly, the poll trends follow the money: Richardson has seen a modest bump up in his support to
roughly 12% in Iowa
and 10% in New
Hampshire. Obama, Tracey tells us, has run ads "mostly in Iowa." Thus, Obama's trend line is up in Iowa, but trending slightly downward in New Hampshire and elsewhere. And while he's
a little unclear on exactly where Clinton has
spent that $1 million on the last five weeks, he implies she's buying
television in both Iowa and New
Hampshire and radio in South Carolina. Her
trend lines are on the rise in all three states, as they are nationally.
Also, as I pointed
out last week, we can see clearer evidence of the ad buys in the favorable
ratings of initially lesser known candidates. The latest CNN/WMUR/UNH
poll of New Hampshire
shows that Richardson, Biden, Dodd and Obama have seen double digit jump in
their favorable ratings since June. Richardson's
favorable rating on that poll has nearly doubled (from 27% to 53%).
Definitely go read all of Tracey's post - he is providing us
with invaluable data on the most important part of the campaign getting underway
in the early states.