TV battleground: GOP campaigns prepare for ad war

By Beth Fouhy

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 13 2011 2:50 p.m. MDT

Another Romney Web video attacks Perry for a Texas law allowing children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to attend public universities. It features a clip of former Mexican President Vicente Fox thanking Perry for helping "Mexican migrants" attend college.

Businessman Herman Cain's campaign has produced a Web video promoting his "9-9-9" plan to overhaul the federal income tax system that has become the central message of his candidacy.

"Our tax code is the 21st century version of slavery," Cain says in the spot — a provocative statement from a black candidate.

While relatively few people see Web videos — Romney's most popular one had just 372,000 views on his YouTube channel, and most of the rest didn't break five figures — campaigns use the spots to attract press coverage, reinforce the candidate's narrative and drive negative messages about an opponent that might later appear on television.

Though voters today get their information from a wealth of sources, TV ads remain a powerful way for a campaign to take its message directly to viewers and bypass the media filter.

Still, only a few Republicans will have the resources to go on the air.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who advertised heavily in Iowa before winning the state's Republican test vote, doesn't have much cash and hasn't been on the air since the summer. Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, lack major funding, too. Cain, a business executive enjoying a recent surge in popularity among conservative voters, also has struggled with fundraising throughout the campaign.

Perry's campaign has raised $17 million since he joined the race last summer, all but guaranteeing he'll have the financial strength to compete with Romney on television. Romney has not yet released his most recent figures, but his campaign brought in $18 million through the end of June, far outpacing others in the field.

They'll both be helped by presidential super PACs that can raise unlimited donations to run ads supporting and opposing candidates. Both men are expected to raise and spend millions on television.

Bachmann and Paul also have the backing of super PACs, as does former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. His group might run the majority of pro-Huntsman ads since the campaign itself is all but broke.

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Beth Fouhy can be reached on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bfouhy

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