Raleigh, N.C. — Republican Pat McCrory is putting his fundraising advantage to work in the race for governor by buying television commercial air time from now through Election Day.
Reports filed in television station public files show the former Charlotte mayor has bought time to put ads on both cable and broadcast television starting Tuesday and keep them on for the duration of the race.
Democratic rival Walter Dalton has not made similar purchases in advance of the fall campaign season. A spokesman for the lieutenant governor says Dalton will have an "aggressive" media strategy but wouldn't discuss its parameters.
When the two candidates reported their fundraising for the first half of the year, McCrory reported having $4.4 million on hand as of July 1, while Dalton had $714,479 on hand.
McCrory's first ad of the fall campaign is a minute-long remix of a 30-second spot he aired earlier in the year. In the ad, McCrory is walking through a vacant warehouse space and talking about the need for North Carolina to tap its energy resources and for leaders to work together across party lines.
Like the lighting in the ad, the candidate's claims are gauzy, aimed not at communicating a specific platform but reintroducing the former Charlotte mayor to an electorate that has paid little attention to politics over the summer.
"Out main goal in the advertising through television is certainly to articulate Pat's vision and reintroduce him to voters in North Carolina. That's something that will be the lion's share of our advertising. Pat has a lot to talk about in terms of himself," said McCrory campaign spokesman Brian Nick.
Nick would not say if any of McCrory's ads would criticize Dalton directly or how much McCrory plans to spend on television advertising. However, public records sketch out an aggressive campaign. On Raleigh-area cable channels, for example, records show the McCrory campaign has spent roughly $447,000. Cable is typically the least expensive form of television advertising.
Local broadcast purchases include $102,015 in order on FOX 50 and $230,875 on WTVD, the local ABC affiliate. McCrory has $32,350 worth of ads scheduled to run on WRAL over the next two weeks, with orders pending through the fall. While an exact total was unavailable, multiple sources said that buy would top $300,000. The campaign has also placed orders with NBC-17.
Nick said the campaign might buy more time during the fall, depending on how much money he has on hand and how the campaign goes. However, because North Carolina is a swing state in the presidential campaign – bringing millions of dollars worth of ads from national candidates and allied organizations into the state – Nick said it was important to reserve time before it was bought by others.
"It's really a resource situation," he said.
Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, said McCrory was wise to begin advertising early.
"It's going to be difficult to break through the cacophony of the presidential candidates and their surrogates, the super PACs," Taylor said. While McCrory's first ad is positive, Taylor said he would be surprised if the Republican didn't use some of his ads to link Dalton to Gov. Bev Perdue, an incumbent who decided not to run for re-election.
Given McCrory's fundraising lead, it is tempting to read Dalton's lack of ad buys as the flip side of that resource situation. That's not so, said Schorr Johnson, a spokesman for Dalton.
"We'll have the money to go on television," he said. Pressed for details, Johnson offered, "The Dalton campaign will have an aggressive television advertising campaign, but I cannot comment on specifics or our strategy."
Taylor said that Dalton, who had to spend heavily to win the Democratic primary, may find it easier than expected to raise money after recent polls showed him so close to McCrory that their numbers were within the margin of error for the polls. Candidates who trail badly typically find it hard to raise money from major donors.
Both candidates for governor will have outsides backers pressing their cases as well. North Carolina Citizens for Progress has aired several attack ads targeting McCrory this summer and has promised more. Reports filed with the IRS show that the group's major backers are the Democratic Governors Association and political arm of the National Education Association, a national organization representing teachers.
The Republican Governor's Association has run ads in support of the GOP candidate.