Money to burn?
October 12, 2008 9:50 AM   Subscribe

Why is Obama advertising in Oklahoma?

From what I can tell, McCain will win OK. Thirty points is thirty points, not matter how good the momentum is right now. So why spend money in Oklahoma at all?
posted by gregoryc to Law & Government (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd guess that it was either part of a package (all the stations in the BigMediaCorp Network) or they're targeting people in neighboring states.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:59 AM on October 12, 2008

The only reason I can see is that Oklahoma is in the top 25% of youth populations in the United Sates. A great number of polls don't count these populations, so we could see wildly divergent numbers based on how much the youth gets out the vote in some states.
posted by arimathea at 10:01 AM on October 12, 2008

Are you seeing nationally purchased ads perhaps?
posted by proj at 10:03 AM on October 12, 2008

I'd say it's partly to help boost his popular vote total. That's one of the benefits of the "Fifty State" strategy. Sure, he'll never win Oklahoma, but he's got a lot of money to burn, and a few ads there might motivate a few hundred more supporters to vote -- helping to ensure that Obama's national numbers are just as strong as his electoral college haul.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:05 AM on October 12, 2008

Best answer: It's part of the fifty state strategy.

It's good for national polls, which drive media narratives. It's good for helping down-ticket races, which can give a president a friendly congress to work with. It's good for party-building, which makes Oklahoma a closer race next cycle. It's good for building the kind of approval ratings that a president needs to influence the debate and push legislation.

I think the real question is, given that Obama has money to burn and will win this thing handily, why aren't they advertising MORE in Oklahoma.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:08 AM on October 12, 2008

I suspect it's national ads. I've seen a few Obama ads on cable TV here in Texas, which is also safely Republican. I'm guessing it's pretty cost-effective to buy a national ad on, say, Comedy Central (where I've seen it), especially considering I see ads for tanning salons and barbershops in small towns 30 miles outside Austin during the same block of ads.
posted by adamrice at 10:10 AM on October 12, 2008

It runs up the popular vote; makes McCain and the RNC run ads and burn money to counter; and extends the coattails to state and local offices.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:24 AM on October 12, 2008

Best answer: It's definitely the 50-state strategy in action; you run up the vote totals, boost down-ticket races, increase national polls, build local political teams' experience... and gear up for next time. OK may not go blue any time soon, but imagine you're in Georgia - this year's ~10% McCain lead can be chopped down a few points, which brings it into "not likely but worth fighting for," and brings out otherwise-disillusioned supporters who figured there was no point in voting, and next thing you know, it's a swing state. Sure, Oklahoma's a lot harder than that - but the 50-state strategy is about long-term investment as much as the philosophical side of "We compete everywhere because we want to represent everybody." The ad buys today are about winning elections in a decade, and the Obama camp's so flush with cash it can afford to do things that won't directly impact anything this time around, but nudge the long-term scenario a tiny bit closer to what they want.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:46 AM on October 12, 2008

According to the Wisconsin Ad Project (PDF), Obama isn't buying any local TV time in Okalahoma. What exactly do you mean by "advertising in Oklahoma"? Are you sure these aren't just national ads showing up in Oklahoma?

Also, this doesn't seem to be the case in Oklahoma, but because media markets cross state lines, campaigns will often buy ads in one state to sway voters in another. Most of the spending in South Carolina, for example, is aimed at North Carolina.
posted by scottreynen at 11:02 AM on October 12, 2008

I've seen a few Obama ads on cable TV here in Texas, which is also safely Republican. I'm guessing it's pretty cost-effective to buy a national ad on, say, Comedy Central (where I've seen it)

I've seen those, too (although we're also getting regular broadcast tv spots in Minnesota now). My guess is that the Obama campaign has been buying national basic cable spots based on demographics--perhaps to target younger voters watching Comedy Central--in addition to buying ads in particular markets.

Some numbers have been posted at Kos, along with a link to an update and stats from Univ. of Wisconsin.
posted by gimonca at 11:05 AM on October 12, 2008

posted by gimonca at 11:06 AM on October 12, 2008

Remember, we've also got a big down ticket race as well: Andrew Rice is challenging Jim Inhofe for US Senate; although Inhofe will probably win, Rice is making it much tougher for Inhofe - his reelection should have been a walk in the park.
Despite this being a "red state," we've got a big Dem streak down here. Governor Brad Henry is a Democrat. Former US Senator David Boren's son, Dan Boren, a Democrat, was elected to the House in 2004. There are plenty of "blue" districts around here, particularly in Tulsa and Norman. As an anecdotal example, I'm seeing far more Obama yard signs down here in Norman that McCain signs.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:08 AM on October 12, 2008

Explanations that might make some sense:

(1) To reach voters in other states, either because they might be visiting the state or because Oklahomans are capable of communicating with the outside world about the election.

(2) To make McCain spend money there.

(3) To foster the media narrative that he's "putting traditionally red states into play" and has a "50-state strategy."

(4) As others have said, there might be some kind of package deal that was a better bargain than cherry-picking which exact states to run ads in. (I have no idea if it actually works that way.)

(5) The blue and purple bars in this graph (especially the blue ones) could potentially help Obama win a fluke victory. Also see the heading "What Obama has going for him" in that blog post about Oklahoma (though they admit the answer is "not much").

(6) Voters hate feeling snubbed. Maybe that first bit of attention to any given state has disproportionate positive effects.

Explanation that doesn't make sense (unless I'm missing something): to affect the popular vote. The popular vote has no effect on the outcome of the election, not even if there's a tie in the electoral college.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:19 AM on October 12, 2008

OK? It's a national package, and there are economies of scale in national packages, as well as the other reasons explained upthread.

Now, there's a strategic element to other local buys: the local time bought in SC is because three of the four network affiliates covering the westernmost part of NC are based in upstate SC. The same applies for Indiana: to cover the northwest of the state you have to go into the Chicago media market. In short, there's pressure on the McCain campaign to invest in uncompetitive states in order to reach competitive ones.
posted by holgate at 11:24 AM on October 12, 2008

It's called "national insertion." A lot of the time, you can buy one program or timeslot nationally (especially on a cable network) for cheaper than buying a bunch of individual markets. The calculus on placing national political ad buys is starting to change enough to mean this will likely become normal in presidential elections.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:08 PM on October 12, 2008

OK breaks up three of its votes among the congressional districts. Obama has an outside chance at winning the Omaha one. (30% according to 538)
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 1:14 PM on October 12, 2008

Stylus Happenstance, you're thinking of Nebraska, not Oklahoma.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:15 PM on October 12, 2008

It is cheaper to buy national cable than a bunch of local broadcast or cable spots. You can buy cable at the local level either from the cable company or over the air network. You can buy spots from the cable networks as well (or from the sat companies -- which run in the local pods for cable markets). It costs more to be more targeted. I live in a safely McCain state and have seen the Obama spots on Comedy Central and Cartoon Network's adult swim. The buys appear to be "run of schedule" meaning that the campaign is paying a lower rate than buying say, the first pod (commercial break) on The Daily Show. Run of schedule ads can be relatively cheap and from a cost per thousand basis can be cheaper than just hitting the local markets spread out from coast to coast. It also means that the media buyer is trying to plus up frequency (since the target customer, I mean voter is probably already seeing the spots over broadcast media, radio, direct mail, etc as well). If the campaign gets a few more votes in the deeply red states, it is really just icing on the cake. Spending money on local advertising in deeply red states would be crazy when the election is so tight in OH, PA, FL and others. Obama clearly has more campaign dollars, but his team is also not throwing good money away trying to win Oklahoma.

This is the exact same reason you see can see Sonic or other regional restaurant chain spots when the nearest Sonic may be a thousand miles away. At a certain point national is cheaper than local.
posted by birdherder at 1:24 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by Stylus Happenstance at 1:31 PM on October 12, 2008

Obama is spending a bit more on national ads than the last few Democratic campaigns, including the big 10/29 primetime half-hour. Obama and the DNC do have a 50-state-strategy, but I doubt they're spending much in OK. In particular they are targeting specific cable channels based on demographics and even have an "Obama channel" on one satellite network. It's probably national ads you're seeing.

That said, there has been an effort to make sure that no state is prematurely conceded and that Republicans are placed on the defensive even in the traditionally red states. This has borne fruit in Indiana, New Hampshire, and notably Virginia, although some others such as North Carolina may remain outside Obama's reach.

In the end there is always a state party organization that could be spending some of the money you see. Check the "who paid" disclaimer.
posted by dhartung at 1:54 PM on October 12, 2008

I can imagine I'd be pretty pissed if I were a Democrat in a red state and my party's nomination just gave up on my home, as if it didn't matter. After all, Obama will probably win nationally. He'll need to build some kind of relationship with red-staters.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:39 PM on October 12, 2008

This is not part of the so-called 50 state strategy and is a product of a nationwide ad buy.
posted by willie11 at 6:22 PM on October 12, 2008

Response by poster: These are some great answers, thanks. For the record, I saw the ad on an NBC affiliate during SNL. I'm assume this means he had to buy the local airtime, but I'm not sure.
posted by gregoryc at 7:42 PM on October 12, 2008

I swear I heard some reference to OK as the kind of shocker state that could go to Obama in case of a landslide.
posted by lunasol at 10:02 PM on October 12, 2008

Call him Farmer Obama.

'Cause he's planting seeds.
posted by Guy Smiley at 11:33 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd be pretty pissed if I were a Democrat in a red state and my party's nomination just gave up on my home, as if it didn't matter

I think the 2000 election changed things in some ways. For the first time in my memory the electoral college became visible to non-wonks. A lot of stuff that was political insider fodder for a long time became common knowledge, like the fact that some states were just fundamentally red or blue. The national campaigns used to take pains not to be forced to acknowledge this for the reason you state.

What has also happened is the fragmentation of media. The campaigns used to be able to advertise effectively with a national buy on all three broadcast networks, because they reached almost everyone. That hasn't been true for a long time. The advertising arms of campaigns, facing continually rising expenses, began targeting states ever more carefully. The GOP really got going with incorporating credit card lists into its strategy. The DNC took a while to catch up and it was really the Dean campaign's technology operation that brought this stuff into the mainstream.

But you're probably right that this left some partisans out in the cold as it were. It wasn't a popular strategy at first, and Dean took a lot of flak from people in the party, until the 2006 elections brought many more Democrats to Congress. This year, it almost seems conventional wisdom and certainly obvious.

Myself, I think this "voter touch" principle works both ways. The less the party tried to appeal to Oklahomans, the less input they got from Oklahomans. So the party moves away from issues that matter there. This is what the GOP faces in the Northeast now. (I expect them to learn from the coming debacle and regroup, at least strategically.)

OK as the kind of shocker state that could go to Obama in case of a landslide.

Thirty points up? Doubtful. If it did go D it would definitely be both a landslide and a shocker (and numerous poll models would be scrapped). Shocker states run from Georgia (McCain up by 6) and Montana (also +6) to Mississippi (+8), Kentucky (+9) and Arkansas (+10). Indiana (+4 in a longtime red state) would go blue before any of them, and North Carolina (+1(!)) may already be blue. (I expect Missouri (+0) to be Democratic, because it has a long history of being a bellwether.) Heck, Arizona only has McCain by 14, and he's a favorite son there.

Oklahoma is seriously in Idaho and Utah territory. Even Texas is only a 20 point lead. If McCain were to only win five states (not happening), I am certain that OK would be one of them.

Bottom line: OK is not a targeted swing state by any measure. Any attention it is getting is part of the 50-state strategy designed to help downticket races (even into state and local elections, the "farm team").
posted by dhartung at 11:47 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Shocker states run from Georgia (McCain up by 6) and Montana (also +6)...

No, Montana is widely considered a strong possibility for Obama. Georgia is a wild card because the Georgian presidential candidate Barr could have a Nader-like effect in Obama's favor.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:40 PM on October 14, 2008

If it indeed was not part of a national buy: here's a map of US media markets, and some markets that serve OK overlap with parts of NM, MO and TX.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:19 PM on October 14, 2008

I don't think the prospects for Georgia and Montana are signfiicantly different based on the available polling. Both states flirted with leaning Obama before Palin was chosen, but have had fairly steady GOP leans since. There's no definition for "shocker", but mine would be that if this state goes Obama, then a lot of others will too. Of course, someone could be more stringent and say that it only applies to states that nobody expects to quit McCain's column, but three weeks out that's sort of beside the point. I expect a regression to the mean closer to the election instead of continued movement toward Obama (much as it would cheer me) -- with some undecideds or moderates switching back to McCain following the debate.

So I predict that MT and GA will stay red, but by much smaller margins than anyone expected before the banking crisis. If VA does not vote Obama, it will be a long election night. But if NC does and GA is even close, it will be over pretty quickly. By the time Obama passes 200 EV, he's got it in the bag, because the West Coast (73 EV) is his. It's not as simple going the other direction: McCain could take OH but still lose. If he takes OH and FL he is closer but still has no lock, and these are big states that will take a while to have results posted, especially given problems both have had in the last two elections. Maybe if he takes ME he'll have better chances across the board.
I wish I had more time to play with this, it's fun for me.
posted by dhartung at 3:19 AM on October 15, 2008

dhartung: "I wish I had more time to play with this, it's fun for me."

I think you might get a kick out of this, dhartung.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:30 AM on October 15, 2008

Picking up on what dhartung said: if Indiana doesn't look clear early, and if NC doesn't look clear early, then this one may be over early.

With NC, you will also have very good stats on who's voted early before election day. And the exclamation mark is perhaps misplaced: NC is not SC. I do think there's potential for a state in the big red 'right angle state' area to go to Obama -- they're lightly polled, and small shifts have big impacts. I'd say ND is the interesting one, because Obama has done serious work up there. There will be surprises. Not OK though.
posted by holgate at 9:39 PM on October 15, 2008

Thanks, Rhaomi, though I knew about it. (I used to run a little site about the Keys to the Presidency prediction system, and I can actually do this stuff in my head fairly well. If only I had a baseball stats background I could have been Nate Silver!)

holgate, I marked NC with a bang! because it hasn't voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter, and it appears from polling to be very nearly in the Obama column already. South Carolina (with a nearly identical electoral history as its neighbor) could still go Obama in a landslide, in which case it would definitely deserve a bang!, but I don't think it quite will.

ND and MT have Democrats in statewide offices and still frequently send them to Washington as well. It's an area known for a century-plus for its "prairie populism" which has translated into Democratic leans, but presidential politicis, since Reagan, more in the Western conservative mold. There's a history there that is more easily tapped into than someplace like OK.
posted by dhartung at 12:31 AM on October 16, 2008

« Older Films like 'Helvetica'?   |   What is there to do in Pforzheim? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.