The really big spending, of course, will happen in the still hotly contested Democratic race.
"The biggest factor is going to be Obama's financial advantage. It's huge and going to get bigger," said Steve Murphy of Murphy/Putman. Mr. Murphy handled Bill Richardson's race. In January, the Obama campaign raised $32 million, nearly double the amount raised by the Clinton campaign. And while the Clinton campaign late last week claimed that since Super Tuesday dollars have been pouring in, that news was eclipsed by reports that Hillary and Bill Clinton tapped into their personal funds to make a loan to the effort, and the fact that Team Obama was raking it in by the millions after a strong showing in the primaries.
Chris Mattola, a GOP ad consultant who worked on Rudy Giuliani's campaign, said all-out primary fights in Ohio and Texas alone would normally run about $10 million per candidate, per state. Free media attention to the presidential races could lessen the Democratic candidates' need for paid ads, especially if the GOP race ends before the March 4 Texas and Ohio votes. But with the Obama campaign trying to make a dent with Hispanics, Texas will likely benefit from his coffers.
The Obama campaign, trying to deliver a big blow, has been on the air for nearly two weeks in states holding primaries and caucuses through Feb. 12, including those in Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and Maryland. It also has started advertising in Wisconsin and Hawaii. The Clinton campaign late last week launched a last-minute effort in Washington State, Maine and Nebraska which held primaries and caucuses over the weekend. The Clinton camp said it will launch spots Ohio and Texas this week.
Consultants say the Obama campaign's relatively poor showing with Hispanics on Super Tuesday cries out for message changes in advance of the Texas primary.
Mr. Murphy said the campaign's immigration focus in its Hispanic ads doesn't match up with the Hispanic concerns about the economy, health care and crime. He also said that while there is sometimes a focus on Spanish messages, it's the English-language message that needs to change.
It's the economy, stupid
He predicted the campaign would use its financial advantage to target Hispanics in San Antonio and El Paso. The campaign also needs to focus more advertising on making its case on the economy to middle-class and lower-middle-class families, he said.
The Clinton campaign likely would make more appeals to younger voters, he said.
On the GOP side, Mitt Romney's withdrawal could help draw funding to Mike Huckabee's campaign. The McCain campaign is advertising in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. but originally launched its ads expecting to face Mr. Romney.
There was some speculation last week that final settlement of the GOP race also could lead to ads from Democrats and Democratic groups seeking to define the GOP candidate, much as the Bush campaign aired early ads accusing Democratic nominee John Kerry of being a flip-flopper.