Air war underway in swing states as candidates pour money into attack ads

A new CBS News/New York Times poll in the presidential race shows most Americans don't like their choices. Asked their preference, 47 percent of voters said Mitt Romney, 46 percent President Obama.

But only 36 percent have a favorable opinion of the president, 32 percent for Romney. It may be because an onslaught of negative television and radio ads -- especially in swing states -- are working.

In Ohio, the campaign air war is well underway.

"What is Mitt Romney hiding?" an Obama ad asks. Romney ads hit back, "Where did all the Obama stimulus money go?" and "When a president doesn't tell the truth, how can we trust him to lead?

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Ohio is in a very exclusive club. It's a swing state and one of eight up for grabs by either party this year.

"People talk about 12, 13, 14, 15 battleground states," said Ken Goldstein of Kantar Media. "But it has been much more concentrated."

Goldstein and his company track political ads. He says the eight states having attention lavished upon them are Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and New Hampshire.

"The single entity airing the most ads right now is the Obama campaign," Goldstein said. "They are engaged at very, very high levels in those eight battleground states."

The Romney campaign is barred from spending money it raised for the general election until after the Republican convention next month. The president -- because he ran uncontested in the primaries -- does not have that problem.

The swing states are getting all the attention -- and it's all attention of the same kind.

"There are only a couple of positive ads on the air now," Goldstein said. "Over 98, 99 percent of the ads airing now are negative."

That may change, because unlike the president who is a known commodity, Romney will have to introduce himself to the general electorate. Experts believe he will have to roll out some positive message at some point.

The TV audience may already be sick of the negative ads in Ohio. But the television stations are loving them and raking in the revenue more than ever before.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.

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