Surprising patterns in Wisconsin ad spending

With the presidential election in the home stretch, candidates are doing everything they can to put their campaign over the top.

A majority of money raised in both campaigns is being poured into advertising.

As a swing state, Wisconsinites have seen a seemingly endless barrage of ads in the race for the White House.

So it might be a surprise to see that in a list published by The Washington Post of TV ad spending for the presidential race in 11 swing states, Wisconsin ranks at the bottom.

“I think there’s probably a lot of reasons for where Wisconsin places on a list. I think one of them is that Wisconsin isn’t a particularly expensive place to run advertising. So a place like Florida is really expensive to run advertising,” said University of Wisconsin-La Crosse assistant professor Tim Dale.

But it’s more than that. When it comes to winning the coveted 270 electoral votes, size matters.

“I think, clearly, Wisconsin is considered a battleground state. But among those states that really could go either way, there are more electoral votes to be harvested elsewhere. And so places like Ohio and Florida are probably more prized by the campaigns,” said Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Mike McCabe.

Looking a little deeper into those numbers, a red pattern emerges. Republicans are outspending Democrats on TV ads for the presidential campaign 3-1 in Wisconsin, according to The Washington Post.


In La Crosse, the pattern is magnified. Out of a total of nearly 6,000 TV ads purchased in the La Crosse-Eau Claire area in the bid for the White House, nearly 5,000 were bought by Republicans.

Only 836 out of those nearly 6,000 presidential ads were purchased by Democrats.

Dale said that shows Republicans are trying to chip away at Obama’s slight lead in the state.

“It’s an area that tends to vote Democratic. But it’s also an area that has a good portion of Republicans in it. And if you can push down the turnout on your opponent’s side and raise the turnout on your side, you are gaining an advantage,” said Dale.

It might not surprise you to find out that, nationwide, 81 percent of ads supporting President Barack Obama and 88 percent of ads supporting former Gov. Mitt Romney have been negative ads.

People might not like them, but candidates are buying them because they work. Dale said negative ads are easier to remember, they are more effective at mobilizing the base and it’s easier to trigger negative emotions than it is to trigger positive ones.

Obama has made five campaign stops in Wisconsin since June. Romney has made two. Neither candidate has visited the La Crosse area.