Republican voters may not have settled yet on a challenger to take on President Obama, but his reelection campaign is laying the groundwork for what could be a major television advertising buy to buttress his standing in the coming months.
Campaign officials have requested ad rates from television stations in at least 14 states, according to a strategist with a prominent political media agency, the first step they would take before deciding to purchase air time. That does not mean a buy will definitely occur this quarter, but Republicans are bracing for what they believe will be a multimillion-dollar campaign on the heels of the South Carolina GOP primary.
The states the campaign is eying are largely the key battlegrounds for 2012. The list includes Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa. The potential buy was first reported by NBC News.
While the Republican candidates and their allies have been battling over the nomination, spending millions on ads that attack Obama in the process, the president’s reelection campaign has been relatively quiet so far.
The launch of Obama's first significant television ad buy would signal the kick-off of the general election, even if the GOP primary process was not yet wrapped up. If that occurred, some GOP strategists expect it could trigger a commensurate response on the air by Republican-aligned outside groups such as American Crossroads.
"The Obama campaign has really studied the Bush re-election playbook of 2004," said Michael Toner, an election law expert who served as counsel to the first Bush-Cheney campaign. "They've looked at how Bush campaign dismantled Kerry. [They] immediately turned and blasted Kerry literally within days of Kerry being the presumptive nominee."
Obama has plenty of funds at his disposal. Last quarter, he raised more than $42 million for the reelection campaign, along with another $24 million that went to the Democratic National Committee. In all, the reelection effort has raised more than $220 million since the campaign launched in April 2011.