Almost $600M spent during election on ads focusing on jobs

That underscores the overall failure of the party to get out its message on one of the issues it hoped would bring Republicans the election. A sluggish economy and slow job growth initially seemed to be the challenging party's best argument for unseating President Obama.

But as Kantar Media analyst Elizabeth Wilner writes in the report, which came out Tuesday, "the fact that Democrats won all five races despite being outspent and out-aired on the issue suggests their messages were sharper and more impactful."

The discrepancy in spending on the presidential level could also be explained partially by the fact that the Obama campaign made an effort to buy ad time early, at a better value. But Republicans also out-aired Democrats on jobs, running more individual ad spots than Democrats on both the presidential and Senate levels.

The report, which was conducted for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a nonprofit advocacy group, also reveals that Democrats spent $57 million on ads attacking Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital in what now looks to be a successful effort to make one of his main assets a liability.

That $57 million went toward advertising highlighting Bain's role in outsourcing and eliminating jobs, including an ad found by nonpartisan ad-testing firm Ace Metrix to be the most effective spot of the presidential race.

That ad, "Stage," featured Mike Earnest, who worked at office-supply manufacturer Ampad, relating how after Bain bought the company, he was asked to build a stage — from which a group of people later informed the workers that the plant was closed, and they'd be losing their jobs.

"Turns out that when we built that stage, it was like building my own coffin," he says in the ad.

Romney's campaign received criticism from the right for failing to swiftly and effectively counter the early onslaught of Obama-campaign attacks on Bain Capital. Instead of addressing the issue in ads, the Romney campaign chose to focus mainly on a website, SterlingBusinessCareer.com, to respond to the attacks.

According to Kantar/CMAG data collected by The Washington Post, both presidential campaigns and the groups supporting them spent at least $868 million total on ads this cycle.

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