Campaign ad spending: How much are Romney and Obama spending per electoral vote?

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As part of this week's feature "Purple Haze," we take a dive into the millions of dollars used for advertising in Colorado by the presidential campaigns and a handful of very wealthy super PACs. Based on the latest numbers, more than $25 million has been spent in this battleground state as of August 26th.

Here, we dig deeper into why the green in this state, compared to other key swing states, shows us just how purple Colorado is.

Let's start with the basics. For ads that have hit the airwaves in Colorado as of August 26th -- the latest available data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which partners with the Washington Post to track spending nationally -- a total of $25.7 million has been spent in Colorado.

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Sam Levin
President Obama in Denver in August.
That's more than 6 percent of $416.4 million, the staggering total spent so far across the country in this presidential race. That's quite a lot considering that Colorado's nine Electoral College votes account for less than 2 percent of the nation's total and only 3 percent of the 270 votes a candidate needs to win.

As we explained in our feature, Colorado is a state where the voters are pretty evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters -- and for this reason, both campaigns and supporting groups are pouring money into ads to try and get voters on their sides.

And while the net total in the state is clear evidence that the campaigns and super PACs consider Colorado key in the path to 270 votes, a comparison of spending in other important swing states reveals just how important Colorado is.

Let's look at three different states where the race is tight and the campaigns are focusing their resources -- and we'll adjust for size using electoral votes as our standard.

In Colorado, spending has equaled a little less than $2.9 million per electoral vote ($25.7 million/nine electoral votes). In Virginia, $23.8 million has been spent over that same time period -- less than Colorado's total. Divided that number by Virginia's thirteen Electoral College votes and you get $1.8 million per vote, notably less than Colorado's per-vote expenditure.

In Ohio, meanwhile, $60,946,460 has been spent thus far. Divide that by Ohio's eighteen electoral votes and you get $3.4 million per vote. But while that's higher than the per-vote amount here, experts note that Ohio has more media markets than does Colorado, likely making it more expensive to campaign there.

Finally, in Florida, where the Republican National Convention was held last week, the total amount spent so far is $77,746,270. But because Florida has 29 electoral votes, that amounts to $2.7 million per vote -- less than in Colorado.

Continue reading to learn more about campaign ad spending in Colorado and beyond.

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Presidential elections don't have to be this way.


The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).


Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.


When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.


The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.


A survey of Colorado voters showed 68% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

Support was 79% among Democrats, 56% among Republicans, and 70% among independents.

By age, support was 83% among 18-29 year olds, 59% among 30-45 year olds, 71% among 46-65 year olds, and 66% for those older than 65.

By gender, support was 77% among women and 58% among men.


In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.


The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.



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Andrew Cohen
Andrew Cohen

Enough to put a big dent in that deficit "we have"

Mark Nussbaum
Mark Nussbaum

Are you surprised in the fact that the Democrats and President Obama's reelection campaign has spent nearly a half a billion dollars? Since the beginning of last year, Mr. Obama and the Democrats have burned through millions of dollars to find and register voters. They have spent almost $50 million subsidizing Democratic state parties to hire workers, pay for cellphones and update voter lists. They have spent tens of millions of dollars on polling, online advertising and software development to turn Mr. Obama's fallow volunteers corps into a grass-roots army. The price tag: about $400 million from the beginning of last year to June 30 this year, according to a New York Times analysis of Federal Election Commission records, including $86 million on advertising.

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