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First Thoughts: This week's 10 hottest ad markets

This week’s 10 hottest advertising markets: It’s all about VA, OH, and CO… Just one NC market on the list… Restore Our Future goes up with big TV ad buy, while Crossroads goes down (and it’s no accident)… Poll: Obama’s immigration play looks to be an early winner… Romney slams Obama on Russia… Rubio isn’t being vetted?... Kerry to play Romney in Team Obama’s mock debates… And Romney bus tour ends today in Michigan.

Kevin Lamarque / REUTERS

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave to supporters during a campaign rally at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia May 5, 2012.

*** This week’s 10 hottest advertising markets: So where is the TV ad war taking place in the presidential race? Eight of the 10 hottest advertising markets (in terms of advertising points from June 18-24) are in the three battleground states of Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado. In fact, three of this week’s top four markets are in Virginia, including No.1 Richmond (which was No.2 last week). Three Ohio markets make our list (Cincy, Cleveland, Columbus), compared with just one from last week. Also, for the first time on our weekly list, we have two Colorado markets (Colorado Springs and Denver). This shouldn’t be surprising after our NBC-Marist poll showed a tight race in the state and especially after that Peter Hart focus group there. And finally, there’s just one North Carolina market (Charlotte) after four Tar Heel State markets were on our list last week (Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro, and Asheville). Bottom line: This week, it’s all about Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado. By the way, for those scoring at home, a Virginia market has been No.1 in the most saturated category for two of the last three weeks.

1. Richmond-Petersburg: Obama 1,074, Romney 981, Priorities 337, Restore 265, Crossroads 45
2. Norfolk-Portsmouth: Obama 1,090, Romney 889, Priorities 280, Restore 240, Crossroads 51
3. Colorado Springs: Romney 1,062, Obama 755, Restore 355, Priorities 226, Crossroads 40
4. Roanoke-Lynchburg: Obama 1,057, Romney 830, Restore 416, Crossroads 69
5. Cincinnati: Obama 998, Romney 877, Restore 347, Crossroads 56
6. Cleveland: Obama 951, Romney 625, Restore 229, Priorities 213, Crossroads 46
7. Denver: Obama 885, Romney 825, Restore 225, Priorities 123
8. Columbus: Obama 723, Romney 610, Priorities 341, Restore 199, Crossroads 69
9. Charlotte: Romney 749, Obama 746, Restore 324, Crossroads 45
10. Des Moines: Obama 740, Romney 623, Restore 207, Planned Parenthood 159, Crossroads 36

*** Restore goes up, Crossroads goes down: As you might see in the numbers above, the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future is back in action. Indeed, according to ad-buying data from SMG Delta, Restore has purchased a $7.2 million buy from June 20-30 in nine battleground states: CO, FL, IA, NH, NV, NC, OH, PA, and VA. Also note that the Super PAC is advertising in Miami and Philadelphia, two expensive markets where the Obama campaign hasn’t spent much money. This big buy comes, of course, after reports that Sheldon Adelson and his wife cut Restore Our Future a $10 million check. One other thing to note: Restore is going up just as Crossroads GPS is going down. This is no accident, folks. These two advertising entities are run, in part, by Romney ’08 aide Carl Forti. And these groups are allowed to coordinate. It’s a one-two punch for the pro-Romney groups. This does NOT count the Koch Brothers’ conservative groups (Americans for Prosperity and American Energy Alliance), which emphatically do NOT coordinate with the Rove-Romney entities.

*** Obama’s immigration play looks to be an early winner: So how is President Obama’s immigration announcement playing? According to the first major poll we’ve seen -- from Bloomberg -- it appears to be early winner. “Sixty-four percent of likely voters surveyed after Obama’s June 15 announcement said they agreed with the policy, while 30 percent said they disagreed. Independents backed the decision by better than a two-to-one margin.” Also, make no mistake about the impact of the praise that Mexican President Calderon showered on Obama. We imagine that got bigger play on the major Spanish-language TV networks than on the English-language stations, something Chicago won’t be too upset about.

*** Romney slams Obama on Russia: Yesterday’s body language between Obama and Putin at the G20 was striking for everyone to see. And, in a way, it plays into Mitt Romney’s talking points that Russia is a threat that the Obama administration hasn’t taken seriously. In fact, here’s Romney to FOX: “The Obama message to Moscow has been a reset policy -- that somehow everything is warm and fuzzy between us and Moscow. And what we've seen over the last several years is that Moscow didn't get the message. The president's reset policy has been an abject failure.” As for the policy front, Obama aides are emphatic that more progress was made between the two leaders on how to move forward on Syria. The news is that Putin has moved from being against removing Assad from power to at least considering it. The sticking point: Russia does not believe the U.S. has made a case that there’s a credible Plan B that will allow for stability post-Assad. Putin apparently pointed to the current situation in Egypt as an example of how unpredictable these power vacuums become. That said, the Obama folks hinted that a formal political process post-Assad could be made public in days and the implication given at a press briefing yesterday was that if that was the case, the plan would have SOME blessing from Russia.

*** Rubio isn’t being vetted? ABC’s Jonathan Karl is reporting that -- as of right now -- Marco Rubio isn’t being vetted by the Romney campaign. (NBC News has been unable to confirm this report, and Rubio himself declined to talk about the VP process in an interview with CNBC.) “Knowledgeable Republican sources tell me that Rubio is not being vetted by Mitt Romney’s vice presidential search team. He has not been asked to complete any questionnaires or been asked to turn over any financial documents typically required of potential vice presidential candidates.” The article does contain this caveat, though: “Although it is possible that Rubio may yet be asked to go through the vetting process, it has been nearly two months since Romney named his long-time aide Beth Myers to run his vice presidential search.” What is going on here? We’ve never believed that Rubio was going to the Romney’s camp’s top-top guy, but do they want it out there that the GOP’s highest-profile Latino isn’t being vetted? Or maybe they do if he’s not going to be the one – in order to lower expectations. Over the last two weeks, potential VPers Bob McDonnell and Mitch Daniels both admitted they were not being vetted either (at least in terms of asking to turn over papers). So it’s also possible the Romney team simply hasn’t made the ask yet of any candidates regarding personal and financial records.

*** Kerry to play Romney: In other news in the presidential race, we reported yesterday that the Obama campaign has picked John Kerry to play Mitt Romney in the mock debates. No doubt, Kerry is a proven debater (against Bush in ’04 and Weld in ’96). But do you think Team Obama is relishing all the Kerry-Romney comparisons? An aide tells us Kerry is a good foil for the president for three reasons: 1) he’ll take the work seriously; 2) he knows Romney and has a “strong sense” of him; and 3) Kerry’s relationship with the president is strong, so he won’t be shy about being aggressive with him in prep.

*** On the trail: Romney’s five-day bus tour comes to an end today in Michigan. He holds a business roundtable in Frankenmuth at 9:10 am ET, a rally there 45 minutes later, and another rather in Holland at 6:25 pm…. Also today, Vice President Biden addresses the AFSCME conference in Los Angeles… And First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to campaign volunteers in Henderson, NV. 

Countdown to GOP convention: 69 days
Countdown to Dem convention: 76 days
Countdown to Election Day: 140 days

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