Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have unleashed advertisements in nearly all the 22 states that have Democratic presidential nominating contests on Tuesday, a combined $19 million expenditure that is the most ambitious and geographically expansive television effort in a presidential primary.
On the Republican side, Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney have a far more restrained advertising effort that started just this weekend and is focusing on a handful of states and national cable television.
Faced with the challenge of getting their messages out to nearly half the country for a single day of voting, the candidates are taking to the airwaves in a concentrated burst of advertising that includes individual advertisements tailored to specific concerns of different parts of the country. The sweep of advertising has put their strategies out in the open and has highlighted the diverging financial fortunes of the two parties.
The complexity of the delegate allocation rules has prompted the campaigns to make decisions about advertising that are unlike what would be made in a general election. And the sheer number of contests has ruled out the retail politicking the candidates practiced in Iowa and New Hampshire. That has forced the candidates to choose between paying for advertising or relying on the kindness of free news coverage, as Mr. McCain has done.
The advertisements are striking in that they are devoid of any overt attacks on opponents. (Though Mr. Romney has reprised an advertisement in which he attacks Mrs. Clinton.) After weeks in which the race in both parties has featured flashes of intense personal animosity, the candidates all seem to have decided that they need to introduce and define themselves for a broad swath of the country in positive terms, especially since the compressed calendar gives them no time for a second chance.
Mr. Obama, of Illinois, has run advertisements in 21 of the 22 states that will hold Democratic primaries or caucuses. Mrs. Clinton, of New York, has run advertisements in 16 of those states. His campaign has aimed advertisements on different issues at particular cities in an effort to tailor his message to the concerns of voters.
Voters in Hartford and Fargo, for example, are watching advertisements for Mr. Obama decrying Wall Street abuses and talking about tax cuts. The advertisements seek to address the economic anxiety that polls suggest is rife in those parts of the country. (“Stock markets in turmoil, jobs in jeopardy, fear of recession,” the announcer says.)
In Minneapolis and Albuquerque, audiences are seeing advertisements that include battle scenes from the Iraq war, reflecting Mr. Obama’s effort to emphasize his early opposition to the war in a part of the country where antiwar sentiment appears high. “We can end a war,” reads the message on the screen, over a backdrop of Mr. Obama talking and rousing rock music playing. “We can save a planet.”
Most of Mrs. Clinton’s advertisements are keyed to economic anxiety, a subject she has increasingly addressed. Voters across the country are seeing what has become her signature advertisement on the economy: a man dropped from a plane and hurtling toward the ground — an image intended to capture an economy in free fall — until his parachute engages, presumably suggesting what a second Clinton presidency might do for the economy.
But she, too, has aimed specific advertisements at specific states or groups. In California, for example, she has run advertisements about the environment and energy. “We have to get serious about ending our dependence on foreign oil,” she says in that spot. And on Saturday, an advertisement featuring Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is supporting her, will begin running in Massachusetts and New York — seeking to counter Obama advertisements that feature Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, who have endorsed Mr. Obama and campaigned for him.
The advertising strategies reflect strategic calculations by the candidates as they navigate the different Republican and Democratic delegate rules.
In many states for Republicans, the candidate who wins the popular vote captures all the delegates. But for Democrats, delegates are awarded proportionally by Congressional district, so it makes sense for a candidate to advertise in selective areas in hopes of winning a share of the delegates — which is what Mr. Obama is doing.
“We are in a world in which delegates matter,” said Ken Goldstein, a political science professor and the director of the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which just completed a study of campaign expenditures to date. “Obama’s got money, and there’s a different definition of competitiveness. General election competitiveness is, Can you win? Primary competitiveness is, Can you come close and win delegates?”
Mr. Obama has spent $10.9 million on advertisements in the states voting on Tuesday; his first expenditure was Jan. 12, according to officials from both campaigns. Mrs. Clinton has spent about $8 million, starting on Jan. 17 in California. Between them, they have spent at least $1.3 million a day for the last week on television advertising in the states voting on Tuesday, said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising.
Most of this money has been expended in just two weeks. By comparison, all the presidential candidates spent a total of $43 million in Iowa and $32 million in New Hampshire, according to a report from the Wisconsin Advertising Project. In those states, advertising ran for months before the votes.
Illinois, Mr. Obama’s home state, is the one place where neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Obama is advertising. Of the five other states where Mrs. Clinton is not advertising, four — Alaska, Colorado, Kansas and Minnesota — have caucuses, the kind of competition that aides to both candidates believe gives an edge to Mr. Obama. In the fifth state, Georgia, Mr. Obama is looking to do well, in part because of the state’s large black population.
Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain began their television effort on Friday; there were no specific figures available on their spending, though it appeared to be about $2 million for Mr. Romney and about $1 million for Mr. McCain. Mr. Romney, again reaching into his own pockets, bought television advertisements across California and on national cable television, a venue rarely used in a primary campaign.
That is a significant drop-off in spending by Mr. Romney over earlier in the primary season, a decision his advisers said reflected the paucity of Mr. McCain’s efforts and the different demands of competing across the country.
Mr. Romney reprised an old advertisement asserting that his background as governor of Massachusetts and chief executive of the 2002 Winter Olympics gave him the experience to be president. Mr. McCain’s advertisement suggested that he was more intent on addressing concerns about him among conservatives than the challenge of Mr. Romney. Speaking to the camera, he invokes Ronald Reagan and describes himself as “a proud social conservative who will never waver.”
The advertisements by Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton offered insights into their strategic decisions and challenges. Mrs. Clinton has shown a decided edge among women over Mr. Obama this year; Mr. Obama’s advertisements are filled with images of women, including several that feature elected officials who have endorsed him, including Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona.
Mr. Obama uses these endorsers to offer an implicit criticism of Mrs. Clinton, something he is not doing himself. For example, Ms. Napolitano says, “Barack Obama doesn’t just tell people what they want to hear.”
Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are running Spanish-language advertisements, mostly in California, testimony to the importance of Hispanic voters in so many states. In one, Mr. Obama is introduced in Spanish and speaks in English in a clear effort to deal with the reluctance of some Hispanic voters to rally behind a black candidate.
“Hope is what led me here today,” he says, his words translated into Spanish subtitles. “With a father from Kenya, a mother from Kansas and a story that can only happen in the United States of America.”
Both campaigns use their candidates as the main star. Mrs. Clinton is shown talking to the camera or to small groups of voters, which has been a strength for her. Mr. Obama is repeatedly shown talking to big, energized — and young — crowds that often roar their approval.
Aides to both campaigns said that the decisions had been complicated given the varying rules. Mr. Obama has put more of his resources into states with caucuses, which tend to draw the party’s most committed voters. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama started advertising early in California not just because of its size, but because the state allows people to begin casting votes early.
“There’s a little bit of a chess game with the ads,” said Mr. Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group. “When all is said and done, there will be a lot of re-examining of all these decisions. This one will get plowed over pretty hard.”