AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
You know the phrase: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Well, these days, if you turn on the TV in Vegas, you might think the only thing happening there is the 2012 election.
(SOUNDBITE OF VARIOUS POLITICAL ADS)
CORNISH: More than 84,000 political ads have hammered the city this year. That's already a record for one city, and we still have two weeks to Election Day. So what's it like living in the most politically saturated ad market ever? Jon Ralston knows. He's a former columnist for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Nevada TV program "Ralston Reports." Welcome, Jon.
JON RALSTON: Hi.
CORNISH: So what's it like? I mean, what do you see when you turn on the TV these days?
RALSTON: Well, we've been inundated for months here, Audie. I mean, it was, I used to say it was like October in July because it started so long ago with the heavy flood of advertising. And now, you just - it's the old cliche toward the end of the election. You cannot turn on the TV without seeing back-to-back-to-back ads.
CORNISH: And are they mostly House and Senate ads, or are they presidential ads? Give us the proportions.
RALSTON: Well, we have a very competitive U.S. Senate race here between Shelley Berkley and Dean Heller, and we have two fairly competitive congressional races down here in the Las Vegas area. So there are some of those ads. But the overwhelming majority of them are either the presidential campaigns or outside groups like American Crossroads or Americans for Prosperity supporting the candidates.
CORNISH: So how has this affected programming? As we mentioned, you have a TV program. What little changes have you been asked to make to sort of accommodate all these ads?
RALSTON: Well, suddenly, a few months ago, my breaks got a little bit longer, and I knew why that was. And - but, you know, it's not that significant. It's probably a minute, a minute and a half. But for the TV station ownership, I bet it is very significant.
CORNISH: What do you think makes Nevada so enticing to candidates and political action committees who are trying to stretch those advertising dollars?
RALSTON: Well, I think we're still a cheap date in many ways. As fast as the state has grown, we essentially have only two urban areas where you can buy ads, in Reno and the Las Vegas area. And we've - we're also a battleground state, and we have been in the last few cycles. And so if you want to come in here and have an impact, this is a good place to do it, whether you're a presidential campaign or a third-party group trying to have an impact on an election.
And there have been, I should mention, some third-party groups that are trying to affect the U.S. Senate race and those congressional races as well. So that just contributes to the glut of ads.
CORNISH: Jon, during the primary season you hear Nevada party officials, on both sides, calling for more attention to be paid to the state. And I'm wondering if this is a case of be careful what you wish for.
RALSTON: I think that if you're a TV station owner, this is what they wished for to make their bottom lines go from red to black. From a voter's standpoint, though, I really think that people here have been complaining about this for a longer time. Because we've been so inundated, most ads in the country, I think that's why we have such a huge increase in early voting here from a 30 percent over 2008. I think people just want the season to be over.
CORNISH: At a certain point, do you think that it actually has the opposite effect, like, basically, the ads won't work because people just have to tune out?
RALSTON: You know, I think that every campaign season, that not only do they not work, but that it starts to really irritate, aggravate, infuriate people having to see some of these ads. They might be changing votes the wrong way with some of these ads. I really think that it does not have much impact after a certain point. At that point this year in Nevada may have come earlier than ever.
CORNISH: Jon Ralston, thank you so much for talking with us.
RALSTON: My pleasure.
CORNISH: Jon Ralston is a former columnist for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Nevada TV program "Ralston Reports." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.