What Do Ethanol and Political Media Budgets Have in Common?

Both Are on the Rise in Iowa

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Evan Tracey Evan Tracey
The big political ad news this week was that Hillary Clinton's campaign has begun airing TV ads in Iowa. I am sure that it is no accident that this news comes on the heels of South Carolina's decision to move up its primary date. The South Carolina decision has set in motion the march forward of Iowa's caucus date. Four years ago, the Iowa caucus was during the third week of January, and in 2008 it's likely to be held the first week of January.

Maybe it's by coincidence, or maybe by plan that the Clinton campaign's first ad airs almost two weeks to the day before John Kerry's first ads aired back in September of 2003. Back on Sept. 3 and 4 in 2003, the Kerry campaign launched two new spots that promoted themes and images very similar to the new Clinton ad. In both, the candidates themselves deliver the messages about making government more accountable, strengthening the middle class and making healthcare available to the voters of Iowa.

Due to the accelerated date this caucus will be most fiercely waged between the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons and will put added pressure on the campaigns and their media teams to make the correct decisions about the timing of ad buys and the messages they choose. In 2003 and 2004, the Kerry campaign spent a total of $1.5 million dollars on TV ads in Iowa. The bulk of Kerry's ad spending occurred in the final few weeks and it was his late advertising that was instrumental in overtaking Howard Dean.

The question now is will the Clinton campaign look like the Kerry campaign with steady weekly spending and a big finish or will these totals be very different? By comparison, thus far in Iowa, the Romney campaign has surpassed the Kerry 2004 totals in only a few months of ad buys, while the Bill Richardson campaign has spent close to two thirds of the Kerry total already. What the Obama campaign has spent in a short period of time is already almost one third of the Kerry totals.

With other state primaries amassing on Feb. 5, one of the questions the talking heads have been debating all year in the media is will Iowa matter more or less than in years past? If the early ad spending is any indication, Iowa looks to matter plenty. It's been said before that Iowa cannot make a President but it can break one. I wonder who Iowa will break in 2008?

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Evan Tracey is the founder and chief operating officer of Campaign Media Analysis Group, a TNS Media Intelligence company. See his complete bio.