Voters Head to the Polls for the $3 Billion Presidential Election

8:18 AM PST 11/06/2012 by Marisa Guthrie
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Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and their supporters have placed more than 1 million television ads since April, with spending in battleground states continuing unabated up to Election Day.

Political ads have been a major narrative of the 2012 presidential race: the number of them (thanks to the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates for corporations and gave rise to the super PACs), the tone of them (overwhelmingly negative); and the sheer volume of them in battleground states (since Mitt Romney secured the Republican nomination in April, the candidates and their supporters have placed more than 1.1 million ads).

So today, Americans go to the polls for the most expensive political race in history. Total spending for the 2012 race is expected to top $2.6 billion. That's a 68 percent increase over the 2008 total of $1.6 billion, according to analysis from SNL Kagan. And other analysts predict that spending could top $3 billion.

And with Barack Obama and Romney in a dead heat, according to several national polls, spending has increased in hotly contest battleground states in the run-up to Election Day.

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Obama for America, the president’s official campaign committee, will have spent $72.7 million in Ohio, with a spike of $9.5 million in the week leading up to the election, according to National Journal. By comparison, Romney for President funneled $42.2 million into the state with $5.5 million in the week leading up to the election. Super PACs supporting the candidates also have continued to spend in Ohio; Priorities USA Action, which supports Obama, spent nearly $17 million in the state, with $3.7 million -- by far the most during the election -- during the final week of campaigning. Romney’s super PAC support in Ohio has been more diffuse but just as robust. Restore Our Future, managed by 2008 Romney campaign adviser Carl Forti, has spent more than $10 million in the state, with $2.4 million coming in the final week. Karl Rove and former RNC chairman Mike Duncan’s Priorities USA has spent $16.9 million in Ohio, with $2.9 million in the final week. And the RNC has continued to spend in the Buckeye State (while the DNC has not), with $2.4 million in the final week and $10 million overall.

But with $128 million through Oct. 31, according to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, Ohio is only third on the list of swing-state spending. Florida, the epicenter of the contested 2000 election, has taken in the most cash through Oct. 31 with $147 million; $68 million on ads supporting Obama and $79 million on ads supporting Romney. Virginia is second with $131 million ($60 million from Obama supporters and $71 million from Romney supporters).

Romney and his Republican supporters are slightly outspending Obama and his Democratic supporters. Overall, through Oct. 31, Obama ads have totaled $347 million, according to Kantar, while Romney ads have made up $386 million.

The increase overall also has funneled more ad dollars to Spanish-language media, with the candidates and their supporters spending eight times more than they did in 2008 to sway the nation’s 23 million Spanish-speaking voters. From April through September, the candidates and their supporters spent $16.4 million on Spanish-language advertising in key states, according to a report from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. That’s a relatively small (less than 5 percent) sliver of total spending. But of the states analyzed -- Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas and Virginia -- the Obama campaign and its supporters allotted 9 percent of total ad dollars compared with 4 percent from the Romney campaign and its supporters.

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