NEW YORK -- The campaign ad war has intensified and expanded in the last week of the presidential contest, with President Barack Obama, Republican challenger Mitt Romney and allied independent groups making their final, full-throated advertising pitches to voters in the major battlegrounds.
The Romney team began airing ads in Pennsylvania for the first time in the general election after venturing into Minnesota late last week, signaling a renewed effort to broaden the map of potentially competitive states. Obama's team responded in kind in both places and will go on the air in Michigan to counter a $2 million ad assault there from a pro-Romney group.
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A presidential campaign advertising effort likely to total more than $1 billion was on track to end just as it began, with a blizzard of TV commercials in a handful of states aimed at still-persuadable voters, who may decide the outcome of the contest.
The Obama campaign has sunk more than $28 million into TV ads for the remainder of the contest, according to media trackers who follow the presidential race. Ohio is the top prize, seeing $6.5 million in Obama ad spending through Tuesday, Election Day.
The Obama campaign is running two ads in Ohio. In one, titled "The Problem," Romney is criticized for saying he would deal with China on the economic front while having a history of investing in companies that outsourced U.S. jobs. "Mitt Romney's not the solution. He's the problem," the ad says. Another spot, "No One Was Looking," plays off Romney's comments, caught on tape at a private fundraiser in May, about the "47 percent" of Americans who don't pay federal income tax but also criticizes the Republican on taxes, job outsourcing, Medicare and education.
The Obama campaign also is spending $5.4 million in Florida and $4.1 million in Virginia. An ad titled "Looking" was in heavy rotation in both states, while Florida voters also were seeing "Unbreakable," aimed at Jewish voters and touting Obama's commitment to Israel, and "Remember," which criticizes Romney on Wall Street regulations and taxes. Also on the air is a Spanish-language version of "Determination," in which Obama makes a direct appeal for a second four years in office.
The rest of Obama's final campaign ad buy was spread across the other major swing states -- Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin -- plus Minnesota and Pennsylvania, which Romney is trying to put into play.
The Obama campaign also indicated Tuesday it would begin advertising in Michigan to counter a $2 million ad buy from the pro-Romney super political action committee Restore Our Future. The super PAC, which was founded by several former Romney aides, has run a total of $10 million in ads in Michigan. It's the only group to actively advertise in a state generally considered an Obama stronghold.
The Obama campaign has sent high-profile surrogates to Minnesota in addition to running ads. Former President Bill Clinton campaigned in Minneapolis on Tuesday. Romney aides point to tightening polls in the state, which Obama carried by 10 percentage points over Republican John McCain in 2008.
The Romney campaign had placed $17.2 million in ads for the final week by Tuesday afternoon, but that figure was expected to climb.
Romney's team spent $5.1 million on commercials in Ohio, where polling has shown him lagging a few points behind Obama for most of the contest. The state's 18 electoral votes are crucial to Romney's effort to amass the 270 needed for victory. No Republican in the past 110 years has won the presidency without Ohio, and a loss there would mean Romney would have to carry virtually all the other swing states in order to prevail.
Romney also was spending $4.2 million in Florida and $2.3 million in Virginia and was advertising in all the swing states Obama was targeting. Romney was spending just $150,000 on ads in New Hampshire, compared with $2 million for Obama, and just $564,000 on ads in North Carolina, compared with $1.1 million for Obama. But campaign ad trackers expected Romney's team to boost its spending across the board in the coming days.
The Romney campaign was running a mix of ads in the final week of the race. In one ad, "Bringing People Together," Romney stresses the need for bipartisanship and says he worked with Democrats as governor of Massachusetts. In another, "Cabinet Members -- Humanity," women who worked in his Cabinet laud his attitudes toward the poor, working women and families. "It's so wonderful to have someone whom you respect and work for that understands how important family is," one of the women says.
Romney called himself "severely conservative" during his run for the Republican nomination but since has tried to appear more moderate to appeal to women and swing voters.
His campaign is also continuing to run a controversial new ad in Ohio suggesting that Chrysler, one of the auto companies boosted by a federal bailout in 2009, was planning to move production of its Jeep line to China. The claim drew a rebuke from company CEO Sergio Marchionne, who insisted Chrysler has no plans to shift U.S.-based Jeep production overseas.
The Romney team's new ad buy in Pennsylvania followed that of several independent groups supporting his candidacy that had begun purchasing commercials over the weekend in what had been considered a safe state for Obama.
Restore Our Future announced it would advertise in Pennsylvania as part of a $20 million, multistate push in the campaign's final week. Another pro-Romney group, Americans for Job Security, was spending about $1.2 million on ads in Philadelphia, while American Crossroads, a super PAC tied to former President George W. Bush's longtime political counselor Karl Rove, announced Tuesday it would spend $1.2 million on ads in the rest of the state.
American Crossroads and a companion group, Crossroads GPS, planned to spend more than $17.7 million on pro-Romney ads in the top battlegrounds. American Crossroads released a new ad on Tuesday airing in most of the swing states suggesting the economy under Obama was similar to a patient in a hospital whose vital signs had flat-lined.
"If you saw this line in the ER, you'd be panicked," an announcer says.
Obama, for his part, was getting an assist from Priorities USA Action, a super PAC formed by two former White House aides. The group was spending $9.5 million on commercials in the campaign's final week, including $2.7 million in Ohio.