Obama camp outspending Romney online

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The Obama campaign is drastically outspending Mitt Romney on the Internet in an effort to better target and convince swing voters, Latinos and Catholics — all of whom tend to move between the two parties. Internet ads give these campaigns a bird’s eye view into the online habits of these voters revealing how long an individual hovers on or clicks through an ad.

This information allows a campaign to distinguish who is willing to listen to the candidate’s message and which voters are uninterested in the ads. The Obama campaign has also begun to post ads on YouTube and Hulu going after people who have shifted their viewing habits entirely to the Internet.

While Romney appears to be spending most of his online money on ads featuring him alone, the Obama camp  is putting first lady Michelle Obama front and center. This online ad strategy embraces the president as a family man, as Sasha and Malia are featured in some ads as well. Fashioning Michelle Obama as a key figure in the campaign’s online approach is a good move for the Obama campaign as the first lady’s popularity often surges beyond that of her husband’s.

Romney’s online strategy follows a far more traditional approach. Most of Romney’s ads deliver a simple message such as “Stand with Mitt,” “Ready to Lead” or “Vote for Mitt.” In many of the ads, the candidate stands alone giving the standard campaign pose of the candidate looking off in the distance modeling him as a strong leader. Romney’s online ad purchases have been on mostly conservative sites. The campaign’s largest buy was for $32,000 on the right-wing Drudgereport.com. Comparatively Obama spent $1 million on a Comcast Internet buy alone.

Although President Obama did not face a challenger in this year’s primaries, the campaign has spent more than double what was spent during the previous campaign. Money spent on online ads will total $159 million more than what was spent in 2008 — a significant increase. It’s likely that number will grow.

Follow Caryn Freeman on Twitter.