WASHINGTON — President Obama’s campaign has spent nearly $100 million on television commercials in selected battleground states, unleashing a sustained early barrage designed to create lasting, negative impressions of Republican Mitt Romney before he and his allies ramp up for the fall.
In a reflection of campaign strategy, more than one-fifth of the president’s ad spending has been in Ohio, a state that looms as a must-win for Romney more so than for Obama. Florida ranks second and Virginia third, according to organizations that track media spending and other sources.
About three-quarters of the president’s advertising has been critical of Romney as Obama struggles to turn the election into a choice between him and his rival, rather than a referendum on his handling of the weak economy.
Obama’s television ad spending dwarfs the Romney campaign’s by a ratio of at least 4-1. It is at rough parity with the Republican challenger and several outside GOP-led organizations combined. They appear positioned to outspend the president and his allies this fall, perhaps heavily.
The latest attack ad, which began airing Friday, accuses the Republican of favoring a 25 percent tax cut for millionaires, tax breaks for oil companies and corporations that move jobs overseas, and a tax increase for working families. By contrast, it says, the president wants ‘‘the wealthy to pay a little more so the middle class pays less.’’
Democrats and some Republicans agree the effort to cast Romney as an unfit steward for the economy shows sign of making some headway. Yet GOP strategists hasten to add that the former Massachusetts governor has ample time to counter, particularly with recent signs of a struggling economy and the fall campaign yet to begin. ‘‘Despite all of the negative advertising from the Obama campaign, polling numbers are exactly where they were before they started this onslaught,’’ the Romney campaign said in a memo distributed this week, referring to a rolling average of polls.
Romney released a scathing ad on Thursday designed to respond to some of Obama’s charges, the sort of rebuttal that often can signal concern that an attack is hitting home. In 2008, ‘‘candidate Obama lied about Hillary Clinton,’’ the ad said, adding there was no truth to the charges that Romney was associated with companies that outsourced jobs.
Some surveys suggest shifts in the electoral landscape. A recent poll by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that Romney has lost ground in the past month on the question of which candidate was better able to improve the economy.
‘‘They wanted to define Romney before he could define himself, and by every indication they’re doing a very effective job of that,’’ said Jim Jordan, a Democratic strategist who was campaign manager for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.
Former intelligence official sentenced in fraud case
WASHINGTON — The former acting intelligence director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Homeland Security Department has been sentenced to 20 months in prison for defrauding the government of more than $180,000.
James Woosley received the sentence Friday after pleading guilty to conversion of government money in May. Four others have also pleaded guilty in the case, which involved fraudulent travel vouchers and attendance claims and cost his agency more than $500,000. Prosecutors say Woosley submitted phony paperwork for his travel and work and took kickbacks from other employees.
PAC targets candidates opposed to finance reform
WASHINGTON — A newly formed super PAC is targeting House members it says are against campaign finance reform.
The Friends of Democracy super PAC plans to run $8 million in television ads and direct mail in 10 to 15 competitive House races this fall. The goal: Oust members of Congress who oppose issues such as disclosure rules and public financing of elections.
The group says it will spotlight those members because their opposition to finance reform speaks to their trustworthiness. It is being launched with help from Jonathan Soros, son of George Soros, the financier active in liberal-leaning politics.
Snowe institute will urge public service by women
PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s retiring Senator Olympia Snowe says her reelection campaign committee has transferred $1.2 million of its funds to an effort to encourage young women to participate in public service.
Snowe said Friday the money will go to the Maine Community Foundation to support the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute. She’ll establish that institute after completing her third Senate term.
The remaining $800,000 is being used to pay outstanding campaign obligations and to establish a multicandidate committee whose goals are to diminish what Snowe sees as polarization in today’s political environment.