Obama sets sights on Republican strongholds


UNITED STATES:Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is using his financial edge to open campaign offices and run advertising in areas that have been reliable Republican strongholds.

Mr Obama (47), an Illinois senator, is investing in states previously written off by Democrats. According to his campaign website, the push includes 14 offices in Indiana, 11 in North Carolina and four in Alaska. Only one of those states, North Carolina, has backed a Democratic presidential candidate in the past 40 years.

"The number of offices that Obama will be able to open in states where we essentially withdrew from the battlefields in previous campaigns is stunning," said former Democratic national committee chairman Steve Grossman, who is raising money for Obama.

In highly competitive Missouri, for example, Mr Obama has opened 29 offices, said Debbie Mesloh, Obama's spokeswoman for the state, which has supported a Democratic presidential nominee only twice since 1968.

In coming weeks, Mr Obama may be outspent by his Republican rival, Arizona senator John McCain, who has accepted federal campaign funding and is required to empty his treasury before his party's September 1st-4th nominating convention in Minneapolis.

Yet in the general-election season, which begins after the conventions, Mr McCain (71) will have to limit his spending to the $84.1 million in federal funds. Mr Obama has decided not to accept those funds and may have two to three times more to spend.

Much of Mr Obama's ad spending since he clinched his party's nomination in June is going to states won by President George Bush in 2004, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Mr Obama spent almost $10 million in Bush states where Mr McCain had spent nothing between June 3rd and July 26th: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana, Montana and Alaska.

Both campaigns are spending about $3 million a week on ads, though Mr Obama is running commercials in more states, according to Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNS Media Intelligence/ Campaign Media Analysis Group, a Virginia-based company that tracks political advertising.

Mr Obama made a $5 million ad buy in late July to run during NBC's Olympics coverage and Mr McCain made a $6 million buy this week at the same rates, according to NBC Universal records in New York. Both span the two weeks of the Beijing games and will appear on network and cable in various time slots, including prime time.

In addition, Mr Obama is in a stronger financial position than Mr McCain for the future. Mr Obama can go back to many of his donors and ask them for more money and can use any funds for the general election, even after his party's August 25th-28th convention in Denver.

He has raised 48 per cent of his money in donations of $200 or less, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.

Neither campaign will discuss its fundraising tally for July. They file that data next week with the Federal Election Commission.

Mr McCain has relied much more on larger donors; 53 per cent of his money has come from contributors who have given the maximum $2,300, meaning they cannot be tapped again.

- (Bloomberg)