COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is flexing his cash advantage over Democratic challenger Ted Strickland by snapping up $14 million of targeted TV time now for ads to air across Ohio through Election Day.
Portman is considered among the Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans this cycle, as he faces the well-known former governor. A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed the contest virtually tied.
Portman’s campaign said the ad buys in all 10 Ohio media markets was to be complete by the close of business Thursday. Another $1 million is being spent on YouTube ads.
Portman campaign manager Corry Bliss said the spots will appear during big television events, including prime-time Ohio State football games, or be micro-targeted to Ohio viewers’ favorite shows in various markets. Such micro-targeting was a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s victory over Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.
“So what we’ve done is we’ve made a buy that targets our key swing voters in various regions,” Bliss said. “It’s a big outgrowth of what we’re doing to analyze how people receive news. I might be on the couch on my iPad, the TV’s on in the background and I’m texting my buddy. You can’t just have one message on one platform anymore.”
He said the targeting will relate to both the content of the ad and where it’s placed. An ad might relate to Lake Erie in Toledo and to the coal industry in Appalachia. It might appear during HGTV’s Property Brothers in Cleveland and Cincinnati, but on the network’s Love It or List It in Columbus.
Strickland significantly lags Portman in cash. The ex-governor, out of office since he lost a re-election bid in 2010, has raised about $1.5 million during the quarter that ended March 31 and reported having $2.7 million in the bank. By contrast, Portman had added $2.4 million for the quarter to amass $13.5 million in the bank.
Strickland’s campaign says Portman needs more money to win because many Ohioans know little about him. In Wednesday’s Quinnipiac poll, 42 percent of Ohio voters said they didn’t know enough about Portman, a senator since 2011, to form an opinion of him. Thirty-one percent said the same about Strickland.
“Given the fact that 40 percent of voters can’t pick Senator Portman out of a lineup, it’ll cost him at least $15 million to fix his embarrassing lack of name identification,” said Strickland campaign manager David Bergstein. “Portman and his allies have already spent up to $17 million while our campaign has spent no money on paid television ads — and they’ve been unable to dislodge Ted’s standing in the polls.”
The strategy of locking in early ad time, and the associated cheaper prices, has been employed by the House Majority PAC and Senate Majority PAC already this cycle. Bliss said he knows of no other candidate campaign that’s done it yet, and it is saving the campaign millions it can use elsewhere.