Biden prepares ad onslaught to overwhelm Trump
Former Vice President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies are preparing an advertising blitz that threatens to overwhelm President Trump in the closing weeks of the race for the White House, an onslaught of cash aimed at blowing up what Trump campaign officials once called their Death Star.
Biden’s campaign alone has reserved nearly a quarter billion dollars in advertising over the next five weeks in 18 swing states. Outside groups that support Biden have blocked off $112 million in their own airtime.
President Trump’s campaign, which spent heavily on advertising earlier in the year, is set to spend far less. So far, the campaign has reserved $130 million in airtime in 13 states, according to data provided by one Democrat and one Republican watching the advertising market.
Outside Republican groups have reserved $39 million in airtime. That figure is set to rise in the coming days after America First Action, a super PAC run by close Trump advisers, said Tuesday it would purchase $40 million in airtime, digital advertising and direct mail in five battleground states.
All told, groups backing Biden have reserved $360 million in late television. Trump and his supporters have blocked off $170 million in airtime.
“Biden now has the financial resources to be on offense pursuing multiple different paths to 270 electoral votes while Trump has to try and defend an increasingly narrow path,” said Josh Schwerin, a senior strategist at Priorities USA Action, the chief pro-Biden super PAC. “This is part of the reason Trump is so dead-set on suppressing the vote, it’s quickly becoming his only possible way to stay in power.”
Biden’s spending advantage has frustrated and increasingly concerned Republican strategists, who say their side is at risk of being overwhelmed in the critical stretch run. Several expressed anger at the Trump campaign, which they said wasted money early in the cycle on investments that now leave them vulnerable.
“Trump’s campaign were grifters and pissed away a lot of money,” said one Republican, who asked for anonymity to offer a frank assessment. Democrats, the Republican added, “are better at raising money than we are.”
GOP officials, however, dismissed the lopsided spending and pointed to their door knocking and phone banking efforts as the best way to reach voters.
“The Trump campaign has a strong advantage over Joe Biden because we’ve had a permanent presence on the ground in key states for years, which has allowed us to learn about the electorate in those states and decipher which message to deliver to which voters with precision,” said Samantha Zager, a Trump campaign spokesperson. “Our robust media campaign combined with our unprecedented data operation means we’re talking to the right people with the frequency needed to turn them out to vote for President Trump – not to mention, we’re connecting with voters via many other avenues besides television ads.”
Biden and Democratic groups are set to outspend their Republican counterparts in the vast majority of battleground states, in some cases by tens of millions of dollars.
Biden’s campaign has reserved more than $60 million in advertisements in Florida, the perpetual fulcrum of American politics. Trump’s team has reserved almost $42 million. Outside Democratic groups have locked in $43 million in their own spending, double the nearly $20 million that GOP groups have reserved.
Trump has reserved more advertising time in the Orlando market, $13.7 million, than any other market in the country. But Biden is matching that amount in the Central Florida vote hub.
Democrats have a spending edge of more than $30 million in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two states that traditionally support Democrats but narrowly backed Trump in 2016. Democrats have reserved $13 million more in advertisements set to air in Wisconsin than have Republican groups.
Biden’s campaign is also spending aggressively in Arizona, where Democrats so far enjoy a $20 million advantage. Arizona has not voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1996, though the state’s evolution into an attractive hub for younger, more progressive people looking for cheap housing and good jobs has made it a prime target.
The Biden campaign has reserved more airtime in the Phoenix media market, $15.9 million, than any other market in America.
The Democratic side is advertising even in some places where Trump is conspicuously absent. Biden’s team has reserved $6 million in airtime in several Texas media markets, $1.7 million in markets that cover Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, and more than $1 million each in Colorado and Virginia, two states likely to remain in the Democratic column.
Biden’s campaign is also making an unusual play for a national audience. The campaign has purchased more than $14 million in national network television ads, almost $19 million in national cable and a smaller $377,000 buy on national radio stations — ads that will likely air during sporting events like NFL, college football and Major League Baseball playoff games.
Trump’s largest financial advantages come in three states he won by substantial margins in 2016 but where polls show a tight race this year.
The Trump campaign is spending $10 million in Ohio, compared to just $4 million Biden has reserved in a state Trump carried by 8 percentage points four years ago. Trump’s spending added to Republican outside spending gives him a $4.4 million edge in Iowa, a state he carried by almost 10 points against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Trump has reserved $15 million in North Carolina, versus $13.7 million for Biden; Trump carried the Tar Heel State by 3.6 points.
Polling in all three states show the candidates almost tied. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report this week moved Iowa and Ohio to the “toss up” column; North Carolina is also rated a “toss up.”
The Trump team is spending more than Biden in only one state that Clinton carried in 2016: New Hampshire, where Trump has reserved close to $4 million in advertising. The Biden team has reserved $1.6 million between three media markets that cover part of the Granite State.
Biden’s spending advantage is unprecedented in modern times, when an incumbent president usually raises and spends far more than a challenger. While some Democrats worried about Biden’s fundraising prowess, the former vice president has now raised more money over the course of the campaign than has Trump’s campaign.
Through the end of August, Biden reported holding $180 million in cash reserves. Trump’s team, which is raising money at a slower clip, had $121 million in the bank.
The RNC still maintains a substantial cash advantage over its Democratic counterpart — but even that edge has narrowed. The RNC ended August with $115 million on hand, compared to $85 million for the Democratic National Committee.