Romney kicks off ad blitz

Presidential hopeful gives boost to profile

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has unleashed a local TV advertising blitz to raise his profile in the early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The former Massachusetts governor placed 4,549 spots on television and radio between the beginning of the year and June 10, more than double all the other candidates combined, according to data released by the Nielsen Co.

His nearest competitor, New Mexico Democrat Bill Richardson, placed 2,232 spots over the same time period.

Romney, Richardson and Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd have already hit the airwaves in the early primary states, while better-known candidates such as Sens. Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama elected not to use TV over the course of the spring.

Clinton, McCain and Obama will start advertising in early primary states as late as possible and save cash for electoral battlegrounds such as California and Florida, where media buys are more expensive.

The lesser-known candidates have no choice but to start TV advertising early to make an impact; poor showings in early primaries mean their ability to continue to raise money will be severely limited.

Besides Romney, Richardson and Dodd, Democrat John Edwards and Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter were the only other two candidates to place TV spots. Republican Rudolph Giuliani is hitting the radio airwaves hard, placing 642 spots.

Obama began airing television ads on June 27, which fell outside Nielsen’s sample period.

Political advertising is skewing early in 2007. Hunter was the first to place a TV ad, 625 days before the general election, followed by Romney three days later. That’s early, but not as early as then-candidate George W. Bush, who placed his first ad more than two years before the election in 2000.

McCain has focused his advertising spending online, leading all the candidates in both image advertising on the Web and sponsored links.

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