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

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.

President Obama in Denver in August.
President Obama in Denver in August.
Sam Levin

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.

Simply put, the money shows that it doesn't get much more purple than Colorado. As Don Ytterberg, chairman of the GOP party in Jefferson County -- a key swing county -- told us: "Anybody watching the political scene would observe that the Denver metro area has been inundated with political advertising.... These are the types of media purchases you might expect to see in September.... I think it's unprecedented to have this much focus this early in the campaigning."

Mitt Romney in Jefferson County in August.
Mitt Romney in Jefferson County in August.
Sam Levin

Here are those stats in list format, with additional spending information from two other key swing counties:

Iowa, six electoral votes


Total ad spending: $29,274,710


Per vote spending: $4.9 million

Ohio, eighteen electoral votes

Total ad spending: $60,946,460

Per vote spending: $3.4 million

Colorado, nine electoral votes

Total ad spending: $25.7 million

Per vote spending: $2.9 million

Florida, 29 electoral votes

Total ad spending: $77,746,270

Per vote spending: $2.7 million

Virginia, thirteen electoral votes

Total ad spending: $23.8 million

Per vote spending: $1.8 million

Wisconsin, ten electoral votes

Total ad spending: $5,714,250

Per vote spending: $571,425

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Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.


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