Presidential Candidates Still Depend On TV Ads

Before the campaign is done, the TV ads will run the full range from nutty to nasty and tens of millions of Americans will battleground states will see them. But for now, candidate commercials are largely confined to Iowa and New Hampshire television screens. And they are having an impact.

The candidates in both parties have spent more than $15 million on airtime so far. Mitt Romney has purchased himself working leads in the two key early states, while Barack Obama has moved into full contention with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

Worried that he was falling behind, Rudy Giuliani has stopped saving his money and begun to fill the New Hampshire airwaves. Mike Huckabee--now up with an over the top endorsement spot from Chuck Norris--is suddenly close on Romney's heels in Iowa.

TV ads mean much less than they used to. Voters have become inured to them, and through the Internet, they have access to many more sources of information than they once did. Direct mail, phone calls, and neighbor-to-neighbor volunteer contacts all play important roles.

But the ads still hold an iconic place in the culture of campaigns, and still consume more money than any other means of communications. So the candidates' skills at presenting themselves in 30-second snippets will have an important effect on who moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Jan 20, 2009.