President Obama campaigns in Denver. (Ed Andrieski / Associated…)
CLEVELAND — President Obama's reelection campaign is invoking Al Gore's narrow loss to George W. Bush in the Florida recount of 2000 to spur voters in battleground states to the polls in a White House race that either side could lose if even a small band of supporters fails to cast ballots.
In an ad that began airing in Ohio on Wednesday, Obama's campaign reminds television viewers of the 32-day drama that unfolded when the 2000 presidential election in Florida finished in a near tie. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling stopped the recount, effectively naming Bush the winner of Florida by 537 votes out of nearly 6 million cast.
The ad shows scenes of Florida protests during the recount and opens with a narrator saying, "537 votes." It is also airing in Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, Wisconsin and Florida.
"The difference between what was and what could have been," the announcer says. For voters "thinking that your vote doesn't count, that it won't matter," he continues, "back then there were probably 537 people who felt the same way. Make your voice heard."
The ad is among the latest in a barrage that has inundated the country, and particularly battleground states, this year. More than 915,000 presidential ads have aired on broadcast and national cable since the general election kicked off in April, according to data from the ad-tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG analyzed by the Wesleyan Media Project.
That represents an increase of 44.5% over the same period in 2008.
"When all is said and done, 2012 will go down as a record-pulverizing year for political advertising," co-director Erika Franklin Fowler wrote in an analysis. "We've already surpassed the total number of presidential ads aired during the entire 2008 campaign — and we still have two weeks to go before election day."
More pro-Obama television commercials than pro-Romney spots aired in the first three weeks of October, a stark reminder that every dollar is not equal in the raging ad war.
Romney and his allies spent an estimated $87 million on ads between Oct. 1 and 21, nearly $10 million more than Obama and his supporters. But the Obama forces got more for their money, running 112,730 ads compared with 97,407 aired by Romney and his supporters. The project tracks broadcast television and national cable buys, but not local cable.
Obama's new Florida-inflected push reflects the danger that he faces if dampened enthusiasm among Democrats diminishes turnout of his base. In Ohio, the president's campaign is concerned about turnout of, among others, younger voters, African Americans and single women.
Another sign of the same challenge: Obama's campaign is targeting Democrats with spotty records of showing up at the polls in Ohio for repeated home visits by volunteers in the final days leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
The Florida spot is one of at least three new ads that the Obama campaign has begun airing in Ohio since the final presidential debate Monday.
One of the others shows Romney saying repeatedly that he backs the overturning of the Roe vs. Wade abortion rights ruling. It's the latest in a series of spots aimed at maximizing Obama's edge among women. Another new Obama spot criticizes Romney for having opposed the federal bailout of the auto industry. It too is the latest in a sequence of similar ads.
Romney's Ohio ads follow two tracks. One says a second Obama term would bring higher gas prices, soaring federal debt, Medicare cuts and higher taxes for the middle class.
The other, focused mainly on the sliver of undecided swing voters, casts Romney as a former Massachusetts governor with a proven record of working with Democrats — a notable pivot from Romney's emphasis on his conservative credentials during the Republican primaries.
Added to the mix Wednesday was a pro-Romney ad featuring actor Clint Eastwood, whose stand-up routine with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention was widely panned.
"We need someone who can turn it around fast, and that man is Mitt Romney," Eastwood says in the ad. "There's not much time left, and the future of our country is at stake."
The Eastwood ad is being aired by American Crossroads, a "super PAC" that also started running an ad Wednesday attacking Obama over U.S. debt to China.
Finnegan reported from Cleveland and Gold from Washington.