In the first three weeks of September 2008, Barack Obama’s campaign ran 1,342 television commercials in the expensive Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia media market.
John McCain, during that same period, ran a grand total of 8 commercials in the same region.
This scenario, which was symbolic of Obama’s general fundraising advantage over McCain, will not repeat itself in 2012. And this is why Romney should not be counted out in Northern Virginia. Romney has $168.5 million cash on hand, and this does not include monies from outside groups that are supportive of his candidacy or against Obama. This means Northern Virginia residents, unlike in 2008 with McCain, will know all about Obama's failures and Romney's proposals to turn Obama's economy around.
Just last weekend, Northern Virginia viewers saw more than more than eight Romney commercials on the broadcast networks. In addition, Romney commercials aired during most of the college football games that aired in the region. Neither Obama nor Romney will have as lopsided of an advantage Obama had against McCain in Northern Virginia. Obama and Romney, for the most part, have matched the other on the air. In addition, outside groups like Americans For Prosperity and American Crossroads have run commercials against Obama that have aired regularly across the region, giving Romney an advantage by putting more anti-Obama messages on the airwaves, giving would-be Obama voters reasons to reconsider.
Obama leads by 0.6 percentage points in Virginia in the RealClearPolitics average, and Virginia, whose electoral votes may ultimately determine the winner, looks like a state that will be won by the slimmest of margins.
To win Virginia, Obama will have to run up his margins in vote-rich Northern Virginia, and Obama’s campaign thinks he can do that by doubling down on the “war on women” rhetoric and turning out the youth vote in the region's many colleges. Romney, on the other hand, thinks he can win over Northern Virginia’s business-friendly voters with his economic message and cut into Obama’s margins. If Romney can make Northern Virginia competitive, he could run up margins in the the so-called “RoVa (Rest of Virginia)” region, where Obama struggles with white, working-class voters. Romney courted these voters when he attended a NASCAR race last weekend at the Richmond International Speedway. Michelle Obama will campaign in Fredericksburg on Thursday at the University of Mary.
The Washington Post, which is widely read in Northern Virginia, has on its front page on Tuesday a prominent photo of teachers striking in Chicago. “Strike Echoes Beyond Chicago” is the headline on the front page, and this can remind reform-minded voters in Northern Virginia that Romney will more effectively combat the amount of influence teachers wield in the education system.