Democrats get early start in Iowa

Democrats get early start in Iowa
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The Democratic presidential primary has already begun in Iowa — more than a year before the first-in-the-nation caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020.

Hawkeye State voters have actually been seeing presidential ads for months, something even the most ardently political residents see as a bit much.

Many of the ads are touting Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyFive takeaways from first Democratic debate lineup Five takeaways from first Democratic debate lineup Democratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement MORE (D-Md.), the little-known congressman who has made a bet that by getting to Iowa early, he could turbocharge a campaign in 2020 with a good showing in the Iowa caucuses. He has run more than 3,100 ads in the states.


Tom Steyer, the California billionaire, is also a frequent presence on Iowa television screens.

He has run more than 2,000 ads in the last year in Iowa promoting his calls for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE’s impeachment. Steyer hasn’t announced a run for the White House, but the ads, which also play in Washington, D.C., had a decidedly presidential feel to them, and could certainly lay the groundwork for a campaign.

The early ads have people in Iowa wondering what to expect next given the intense interest in politics in the Trump era and the crowded field of candidates expected to seek the Democratic nomination.

Some aren’t exactly relishing what’s to come given the early advertising assault.

“It's more like, ‘Oh my God, it's already coming at us,’ ” said Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University. “People here already think the political season is much too long.” 

It’s unclear how much Delaney or Steyer have helped themselves with their early advertising.

Democratic strategist Tracy Sefl, who hails from Iowa, said that she didn’t think that the television spots had done much for either of them.

“Fall 2018? The University of Iowa football coach has greater name recognition, more front page photos and would almost certainly get more votes,” Sefl said, adding, “So I wish everyone well and trust that Democrats have learned how best to spend our dollars.”

The advertising spending represents a “dramatic shift” from a year ago, according to a report earlier this month in The Des Moines Register. Four years ago, as Republicans and Democrats prepared for a presidential election, there were just two ads, which only aired nine times, to this point in the race.  

The newspaper reported an analysis of television ads by Kantar Media that showed that of the more than 10,500 ads related to the 2020 presidential election that have aired around the country, more than half of those spots have been in Iowa.

Delaney, who has invested much of his time traveling throughout Iowa’s 99 counties, has aired around 60 percent of the ads in Iowa, according to the data reported in the Register.

“2018 is just ahead of the curve,” Madeline Meininger, a senior analyst at Kantar Media told The Hill, adding that there’s more volume and more spending across the board. 

Meininger said the early media buys are an indication of what’s to come during the upcoming primary, adding that the political atmosphere is “so charged and energized that people want to get in the race.” 

The rationale, traditionally speaking, for getting out early would be to go up with uninterrupted advertising time to build a candidate’s brand. 

But media strategists say there’s little advantage to getting out so early, particularly when they’re competing for attention from political candidates in Iowa running in the midterms this November.

“I’d say it’s an unusual play to be advertising this early when there are active races going on in the state,” said Anson Kaye, a strategist at the media firm GMMB who also worked on former President Obama’s campaign in 2012 and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally MORE’s campaign in 2016.

But Kaye and other strategists were quick to point out that after Trump won the election in 2016, anything is possible. 

An Iowa-based spokeswoman for Delaney could not be reached for comment. 

Kevin Mack, the lead strategist for Steyer’s organization, said the billionaire’s goal is to make the biggest difference he can in 2018.

As for 2020, Steyer will assess what the Democratic field looks like and make a decision, Mack said. 

But for now, the ads in the state are helping to build a movement in Iowa.

The anti-Trump organization has no plans of stopping the ads, Mack said. In fact, next week, they’ll begin “addressable television ads,” aimed at Direct TV and Dish Network viewers. 

While other would-be Democratic candidates in 2020 haven’t taken to the airwaves yet in Iowa, they’ve been making the rounds.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John Ryan2020 Democrat: Harriet Tubman will be on 'within the first year of my presidency' 2020 Democrat: Harriet Tubman will be on 'within the first year of my presidency' Democratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement MORE (Ohio) and even Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing porn star Stormy Daniels have all made visits in recent weeks.

Schmidt says he’s convinced it’s all too early. 

“I’m not sure that positioning yourself now is going to make a difference,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the people who come out of nowhere who capture the imagination.”