Joe Biden is spending vastly more than President Donald Trump in television advertising in battleground states and elsewhere, focusing overwhelmingly on the coronavirus, The New York Times reported Sunday.
Trump’s Democratic challenger has had a nearly 2-to-1 advantage on the airwaves for months, with dominance most pronounced in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where he spent about $53 million to Mr. Trump’s $17 million over the past month mostly on ads criticizing Trump’s handling of the virus, economy and taxes, Advertising Analytics data showed, the Times reported.
According to the Times, the ad spending shows how the pandemic has affected the 2020 race, with more than $1.5 billion being spent on ads on the airwaves compared with $496 million spent on ads in the 2016 race by this point.
Trump has been outspent by roughly $124 million on the airwaves since May, the Times reported.
Both campaigns are splurging on ads in Florida, the Times reported., with Biden spending about $14 million more on broadcast television and cable ads there than Trump.
In particular, Biden has been airing two biographical spots — one in Spanish and one in English, each with near-equal money behind them — that focus on his personal history benefiting from health care, and his fights to expand that access through the Affordable Care Act.
“That had extraordinary potency in 2018,” said Roy Temple, a Democratic ad maker, referring to the health care ads and messaging that helped Democrats take back the House two years ago. “If anything, Covid added to the potency of that, because you’ve got literally millions of people who now have a new pre-existing condition.”
The Biden campaign is also spending more in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which Trump won in 2016.
But Tad Devine, a Democratic ad strategist who ran the ad campaigns of both John Kerry and Al Gore, said the Biden campaign’s dominance in Arizona is the most “aggressive” on “turf that belongs” to Trump.
The Biden campaign’s large investment in Arizona has forced the Trump campaign to move some money around as well, adding $5.7 million more to its ad reservations in Arizona since Aug. 30, the Times reported.
The Trump campaign told the Times all of its ad decisions have been strategic, and not budget-forced.
“Television ads are a small piece of the voter outreach puzzle and the Trump campaign has perfected the art of utilizing them in the most strategic, surgical way possible,” said Samantha Zager, the deputy press secretary for the Trump campaign. “It makes no sense to run TV ads in states we know we’re going to win, and in other states, they’re a useful tool to reach the right voters with the right message.”
The Trump campaign has been using a more counterintuitive way to try to maximize its ad spends in particularly expensive states like North Carolina, Arizona and Michigan, with a national buy — purchasing an ad on a national network that airs in every state, the Times reported.
The Trump campaign is also spending directly on local cable networks that have high viewership among more rural voters, such as RFD-TV, WGN-TV and the Weather Channel, and spending heavily on evangelical and conservative radio stations, the Times reported.
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