TAKING ADVANTAGE OF A FINANCIAL EDGE…. There are a variety of factors that have helped Barack Obama build a solid lead in the presidential race, but it’s worth remembering that voters are moving in the Democrat’s direction in the midst of a very serious ad blitz.

The Obama campaign has not yet released its fundraising totals from September, but I’m very curious because efforts like these aren’t cheap.

In the first three weeks of September, Barack Obama ran 1,342 television commercials in the Washington media market that reaches heavily populated and contested Northern Virginia.

According to The Nielsen Company, in the same period and market, John McCain aired just eight commercials on broadcast stations.

Similar disparities are playing out across the country as the Illinois Democrat flexes his financial muscle to outspend McCain and the Republican National Committee on television advertisements, in some cases by ratios of as much as 8-to-1.

The Competitive Media Analysis Group’s Evan Tracey noted, “Obama is spending $3.5 million a day on television ads. If he does that through Election Day, it will be more than McCain got from the government for his entire general election campaign.”

Republicans are trying to keep up, using a McCain-Feingold campaign finance law loophole to combine the efforts of the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee, but it’s had limited success thus far, and the RNC’s contribution to the coordinated campaign activities don’t necessarily erase Obama’s financial edge.

What’s more, Chris Cillizza noted that Obama is specifically ramping up his ad buys in “red” states: “In Florida, for example, Obama is now spending just shy of $5 million a week on television — a $1.8 million (!) increase from just a week ago. The same pattern is apparent in Indiana (a $900,000 increase in ad spending over the past week), Missouri ($1.4 million increase) and Virginia ($2.3 million increase).”

When Obama announced that he would forgo public financing for the general election, this is exactly what he had in mind.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.