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Biden camp swamps Trump on late TV ads as battlefield expands

Biden camp swamps Trump on late TV ads as battlefield expands
© Bonnie Cash

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is leveraging a massive cash advantage to overwhelm President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE and his Republican allies in states across the country in the final week before Election Day, even as the battlefield of competitive states expands deep into traditionally Republican terrain.

Biden’s campaign will spend $51 million on television and digital advertising over the final week of the preelection sprint, according to data maintained by the nonpartisan firm Advertising Analytics. Outside groups are set to spend another $36 million on his behalf.

Trump’s campaign has blocked off about half that amount. The campaign itself will spend just $11 million over the final week, and it will spend an additional $15 million in coordination with the Republican National Committee.

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America First Action, the largest outside group spending on Trump’s behalf, has nearly $20 million in reserved airtime.

The Democratic nominee’s edge comes not just in the depth of his spending advantage, but in its breadth. The Biden campaign will spend at least $1 million in television and digital advertising in a dozen states over the final week, from perennial bellwethers like Florida and Pennsylvania to more reliably red states like Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina.

The Biden campaign is even planning a late $1 million blitz in Texas, a state at the heart of any Republican’s path to the White House.

“He’s able to leverage his massive fundraising to expand the map while not neglecting the places he needs to win,” said Ian Russell, a Democratic strategist watching polls in swing states. “For Biden it’s not an either-or, it’s a both-and.”

Biden’s campaign and allied groups will outspend Trump’s team by at least a 2-to-1 margin in Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada and Iowa over the final stretch. Biden’s spending advantage is almost 2-1 — $11 million total spent by Democratic groups versus $5.56 million by Republican groups — in Michigan, a state Trump narrowly won in 2016.

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Trump and his outside allies are outspending Biden’s team in only two states, Ohio and North Carolina, in the final week. In both of those states, the Republican spending advantage is less than $1 million.

All told, Biden’s team is spending about 90 percent of their money on advertising in states Trump won in 2016 and about 10 percent defending five states: Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia and Colorado.

Republicans privately express frustration at Trump’s inability to keep pace with Biden, who became an improbable fundraising powerhouse fueled by small-dollar contributors and mega-donors alike. They said Trump’s disadvantage has made it impossible for him to frame the race as a choice, rather than as a referendum on his own tenure in office.

“Vice President BidenJoe BidenBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit On The Money: Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report | GOP targets jobless aid after lackluster April gain MORE raised a record amount after the first debate, giving his campaign every opportunity to play in battleground states that otherwise would not be in play. His resources are plentiful, and the electorate is hungry for stability,” said Lisa Miller, a former communications director at the Republican National Committee.

But the Trump campaign professed confidence in the investments they had made. Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s chief spokesman, pointed to an additional $6 million they had purchased in new advertising.

“We have all the resources we need to spread the president’s message to voters in all of the states which will decide the election,” Murtaugh said in an email. “We have a better message, a better campaign, and a better candidate.  Biden is running a campaign that is essentially only television ads. We like our strategy better — actually running a campaign.”

The spending edge for Biden is no guarantee of success in November. Other Republicans pointed to 2016, when Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' Hillary Clinton: There must be a 'global reckoning' with disinformation Pelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights MORE outspent Trump on television — though not to such a substantial degree.

“Trump was outspent in 2016 by Hillary and still won, but this is not 2016,” said Jai Chabria, a Republican strategist in Ohio. “It’s a different candidate, and the concern for Republicans, including those down ballot, is that the Biden campaign expands the map by outspending Trump in these states. Trump’s path to victory is still there, but it narrows by the day.”

The two campaigns and their primary outside allies have spent an incredible $814 million on television and digital advertising since Sept. 1, the Advertising Analytics analysis found. 

Biden’s campaign has spent most heavily in Florida, where they have dropped $67 million, and in Pennsylvania, where they purchased $54 million in airtime. The campaign has also spent more than $51 million on national advertising, airing high-profile spots during the World Series and during NFL games every weekend. 

The Biden campaign has spent more than $20 million in Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Arizona.

Trump’s campaign has spent about $34 million in Florida, their candidate’s adopted home state where polls show a narrowly fought contest. Trump has spent between $12 million and $17 million each in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan. 

Even at the last minute, the unprecedented spending is growing. Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergFour years is not enough — Congress should make the child tax credit permanent Biden's spending plans: Good PR, but bad politics and policy Top 12 political donors accounted for almost 1 of every 13 dollars raised since 2009: study MORE (D) plans a late foray into Ohio and Texas, two states Trump won comfortably in 2016 but where his numbers have suffered this year. Bloomberg plans to spend $15 million in late advertising, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Texas Democrats, including former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, have been urging Biden’s team to invest more in their state in the closing days. Bloomberg’s investment means Biden will feel less pressure to try for a late cash infusion.

“A media campaign in Texas is the political equivalent of a land war in Asia,” Russell said. “It’s a very risky proposition.”