CLEVELAND — If you switched on a television in northern Ohio this week, chances are you saw an ad for President Obama’s reelection campaign. Or two. Or three. Over and over again.
Mitt Romney? Nothing.
Obama’s Republican challenger has spent much of the summer racing around the country gathering campaign donations to pay for advertising. And the legal restraints that kept him from spending money raised for the general election were lifted a week ago, when the party officially nominated him for president.
Yet for reasons that his advisors declined to discuss, Romney has ceded the advertising airwaves to Obama over the last week in Ohio and other battleground states.
The sudden cease-fire offered a surprising lull in what for months had been a guns-blazing advertising war waged in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire — on one side, Romney and his allies; on the other, the president and his.
It had continued unabated during the Republican National Convention last week, with no letup from the Obama forces.
But Romney’s temporary withdrawal has been striking here in northern Ohio, where what had looked to TV viewers for months like an evenly matched, if annoying, ad battle transformed into a lopsided all-Obama/all-the-time promotion campaign, with news coverage of the Democratic National Convention amplifying the president’s message.
The Romney vacuum was especially noteworthy given that early voting in Ohio starts in less than four weeks.
Asked to explain, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded by email: “We don’t discuss ad buys or our ad strategy – I would just say stay tuned on new ads coming very soon.”
The Cleveland area is a Democratic stronghold where Obama trounced his Republican rival John McCain four years ago. But with 1.5-million television households in the Cleveland media market, which also covers the heavily populated Akron area, it is an essential part of any Romney scenario for winning Ohio. McCain harvested more than 600,000 votes in this part of the state, and Romney has spent a substantial sum on advertising in Cleveland.
This week, the most heavily run Obama ad has been a spot giving the president credit for saving auto industry jobs in 80 Ohio counties and showing Romney saying in a TV interview, “Let Detroit go bankrupt.” (Romney, who opposed the government’s auto industry bailout, was repeating a headline – which he did not write – that was used over an op-ed article that he authored.)
Another Obama ad run frequently in Cleveland this week shows women denouncing Romney’s stands on abortion and contraception. A third portrays Romney’s Medicare plans as a threat to healthcare coverage for seniors.
In addition, Priorities USA Action, a super-PAC that supports Obama, has been running an ad showing a female business owner in Massachusetts saying Romney was a disappointing governor.
Although far outgunned, the Romney forces have not been entirely absent from TV advertising in Cleveland this week. Americans for Prosperity, a super-PAC that supports him, has been running an ad showing a Canadian woman criticizing Obama’s healthcare overhaul.
And after the Democratic convention ends Thursday night, no one doubts that Romney and his allies will resume advertising with maximum force through election day.
On Thursday, the Republican National Committee released an ad, aired on NBC’s “Today” show, showing the party’s director of Hispanic outreach, Bettina Inclan, breaking up with an imaginary Obama seated across from her at an elegant dinner table. “You’re just not the person I thought you were,” she says.
Asked in an email where and when the ad would run, the party’s communications director, Sean Spicer, had no immediate comment.