Romney leads TV ad race


NEW YORK -- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is taking an early lead in political ad spending, with his GOP presidential campaign running more TV ads than any other candidate.

Romney's campaign was responsible for 4,549 TV and radio ads through June 10, according to Nielsen Monitor Plus. The vast majority were local TV ads, with 2,036 placed in the early caucus state of Iowa. Coming in a distant second is Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson with 2,232, all of which are local TV ads and all but 301 in Iowa. Democratic candidate and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd placed 1,664 ads through June 10, all but four in either Iowa or New Hampshire. Romney's campaign also bought 297 national cable ads while Dodd bought four.

Only two other candidates were reported to have bought TV time: Democratic candidate John Edwards (68, all local TV) and Republican candidate Duncan Hunter (34, all local TV). Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has bought 642 local radio spots, one of only two candidates -- the other is Romney -- to buy radio spots. Hunter started his media campaign sooner than everyone else, with 34 spots running in his home state of California.

Beyond Iowa, the early primary state of New Hampshire has seen nearly 1,500 TV ads, including 788 from Romney and a little more than 300 each from Dodd and Richardson. Other states seeing early TV ads were Vermont, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Michigan as well as Washington, D.C.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has led the candidates in paid Internet advertisements, with 11.6 million image-based impressions in April and 8.6 million in May along with 14.3 million sponsored links in April and 6.3 million in May. McCain's Web site traffic placed fourth among presidential campaign sites, behind the sites for Democratic contenders Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Edwards. Obama's site had 647,000 unique visitors in April compared with 498,000 for Clinton, 385,000 for Edwards and 212,000 for McCain.

Romney registered 3.4 million image-based advertising impressions in May along with 877,000 sponsored links in April and 1.4 million in May. Romney's site was visited by 111,000 unique visitors in April, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Clinton's campaign cut down on Internet advertising in May, Nielsen//NetRatings said.

Among the blogosphere, Nielsen BuzzMetrics said that Democratic candidates are leading Republican candidates 2-to-1 in online mentions and discussions. Obama is the leading candidate in terms of buzz, followed by Clinton. McCain has the most buzz among Republicans.