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Nonpartisan Agreement: Most Campaign Money Is Wasted

Republican and Democratic strategists tell NPR that most of the estimated $4 billion to be spent by the campaigns, political action committees and others on the 2012 presidential race will make no difference in the outcome.

"Eighty percent of what we do in a campaign is wasted," Democratic pollster and adviser Mark Mellman tells NPR's Morning Edition. "The problem is we don't know which 80 percent in advance, so we do it all. That's exactly what these campaigns are doing."

Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who advised George W. Bush and John McCain, agreed: "No, you don't need that much money. It's ridiculous. This is so much more money than has ever been spent historically."

McKinnon tells NPR that the amount to be spent on the 2012 race between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney will be "a minimum of $4 billion, when you add up all the PACs and special interest money that's going to be spent on this campaign."

"If you live in a swing state, you're seeing political ads wall to wall now like you used to back in September, October in presidential campaigns past," says McKinnon. "At a certain point, it just becomes completely white noise."

The difficult thing, Mellman says, is determining which ad buys matter, and which ones don't.

"Nobody can sit here today, in what would otherwise be a close race, and say that extra million, $5 million, $10 million, $50 million might not make the difference of a few hundred votes in Florida, a few hundred votes in Ohio or Nevada," says Mellman.

Both McKinnon and Mellman agree that the Romney campaign and all of the affiliated pro-Romney money could exceed the amount raised and spent by Obama and his supporters in the election. Historically, sitting presidents have a big fundraising advantage.

What they're not so sure about: whether it will matter.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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