McCain Picks Bad Time to Cede Battleground

Suspends Campaign Just as Obama Ramps Up Spending

By Published on .

Evan Tracey Evan Tracey
Yesterday, John McCain took a bold step and suspended his campaign to go to Washington to help resolve the country's economic crisis. On the one hand this move is consistent with his "country first" brand, but on the other hand a total suspension of his campaign may jeopardize his party's chances this fall.

With Barack Obama outspending McCain nearly 2 to 1 on a daily basis, now is not the best time for McCain to reduce his advertising. No one will argue that the economic crisis has dire consequences for the U.S. and world economies, but it may not be an all-consuming predicament for American voters. Decreasing ad buys for even a couple of days will surrender valuable media mass in the media battleground to Obama. Meanwhile, for the past several weeks, Obama has ramped up his ad spending by more than 20% percent a week in Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Michigan. His total spending now exceeds $2 million a day.

To remain competitive with Obama, McCain is buying broadcast and cable network TV ads in key media markets in battleground states. Taking down ads for a few days may help him slightly in the long run, but it is an obvious gamble. Instead, McCain should have scaled back his buys and changed the tone of his ads. By releasing less combative spots, he could reassure the country that he will be in Washington addressing the financial crisis instead of playing politics. This strategy would have allowed him to remain on the air while still putting "country first."

Suspending his campaign with less than 40 days until Election Day is a big risk. McCain is betting the election on one hope: putting country before politics trumps leaving the media arena wide open to your opponent and his boundless resources.

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