Trump Campaign Slashes Ad Spending in Key States in Cash Crunch

September 15, 2020by Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, Bill Allison and Gregory Korte, Bloomberg News (TNS)
Supporters gather as President Donald Trump arrives at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum in Jupiter, Florida for a campaign rally on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s campaign is scaling back its television advertising spending and in some cases abandoning it altogether for now in key states, facing a cash crunch brought on by huge investments in staff and operations.

Trump’s reelection campaign vowed last month to saturate voters early with ads in battleground states where voters cast large numbers of ballots before Election Day. But with 50 days until the election, the campaign is canceling ads in states he’ll need to win. In those crucial states, Trump lags Democratic nominee Joe Biden in polling, and Biden has more money to spend.

Between Aug. 10 and Sept. 7, Biden spent $97.7 million on broadcast and cable ads, while Trump spent $21.6 million, according to ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.

In some crucial battleground states Biden outspent Trump. In Wisconsin, Biden spent $9.2 million to Trump’s $1.5 million; in Florida, Biden spent $23.2 million to Trump’s $6.4 million; in Arizona, Biden spent $10 million compared to $1.4 million by Trump, and in North Carolina, Biden spent $11.5 million to Trump’s $3.7 million.

Georgia was one state where the Trump campaign outspent Biden — $2.7 million to $1.3 million.

In that same period, the Trump campaign stopped running ads in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two battleground states where Trump currently trails Biden by about 4 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics. Biden booked $8.5 million in Michigan and nearly $16.8 million in Pennsylvania.

“They are in a cash crunch. It’s obvious by looking at these numbers,” said Republican strategist Bryan Lanza, deputy communications director for Trump’s 2016 campaign. “As with any campaign, you adapt to the environment. They can’t cut from payroll, they can’t cut from operating so they’ve got to cut from TV. That’s not killer, but it’s a problem. You always want to have a strategic advantage when you’re competing against anybody and when you lose it, that’s a problem.”

While Trump’s August fundraising hit a record for his campaign at $210 million, it is far less than the $365.4 million Biden and the Democratic National Committee raised last month. The campaign has not released its cash-on-hand figures.

Trump has discussed putting as much as $100 million into his campaign, as he trails Biden in national polls and a majority of voters seem to have soured on his handling of the coronavirus.

But Trump dominates news cycles and the attention he gets on news programming makes paid advertising less important, Lanza said, noting that Hillary Clinton outspent Trump on TV in 2016.

The Trump campaign says the president has been connecting with voters in battleground states for years, and that the campaign got an unusually early start.

“We’ve been on the ground and on the airwaves to spread the message of his successful first term, while Joe Biden is just now emerging from his basement and forced to play in states Democrats typically don’t need to,” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager.

The cash crunch comes as a result of a massive investment in field organization and staff, according to a person familiar with the campaign’s operations, leaving them in a tight spot as the fall campaign began. The campaign also focused on small-dollar donations, which are expensive to find and collect compared to those from high-dollar donors.

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and two fundraising entities that support them both have spent $820 million so far, Federal Election Commission records show. The RNC has invested heavily in staff, including for its ground game, spending $28 million on payroll.

The Trump campaign began its fall ad buying as early as May to lock in air time at the most favorable rates. Under Federal Communication Commission rules, broadcasters must sell air time to federal candidates at the same price it offers its best advertisers beginning 60 days before an election — a window that opened last Tuesday.

But as the fall season approached, the Trump campaign started delaying or canceling ad time it had already bought. In Arizona, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, all key battleground states, the Trump campaign hasn’t aired any local ads since Labor Day. It’s also cut back in Minnesota and Michigan, and instead put money into Florida, North Carolina and even Georgia, a reliably Republican state that wasn’t on its advertising map a month ago.

The new advertising plan is a departure from one campaign manager Bill Stepien outlined last month, when he said the campaign would defend states Trump won in 2016, expand the map into Democratic states, and front-load spending in states with high numbers of early and absentee voters.

“We are guided by data and dates. The data tells us which messages and which advertising puts lead on the target best and we’re guided by that data and importantly we’re guided by the election calendar,” he said.

But the Trump campaign has pushed back its ad spending in Arizona, where 75% of ballots were cast before Election Day in 2016 — the highest of any state without automatic mail-in voting. Trump won Arizona’s 11 electoral votes by 4.1 percentage points in 2016 but now trails Biden by 5.7 points in the RealClearPolitics average of state polls.


©2020 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

In The News



2020 Elections

'I'm Still Exhaling': Swing-state Voters on Biden's 100 Days
In The States
'I'm Still Exhaling': Swing-state Voters on Biden's 100 Days

ELM GROVE, Wis. (AP) — Standing on the sidelines of her son's soccer practice in this upscale suburb, Laura Hahn looked skyward for answers when asked how she would rate President Joe Biden's first 100 days in office.  Overall, Biden is doing well, she said after... Read More

Guess What? The 2020 Election Is Now Officially Over
Political News
Guess What? The 2020 Election Is Now Officially Over
March 31, 2021
by Dan McCue

Democrat Rita Hart threw in the towel Wednesday afternoon, giving up her bid to represent Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, and effectively ending the 2020 election cycle. Hart, who had been challenging the outcome of the race before the Committee on House Administration, said in a brief... Read More

Fox News Slapped With $1.6 Billion Lawsuit Over 2020 Election Claims
Fox News Slapped With $1.6 Billion Lawsuit Over 2020 Election Claims
March 26, 2021
by Dan McCue

Dominion Voting Systems on Friday filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, arguing the cable news company sought to boost faltering ratings by falsely claiming the voting machine company had rigged the 2020 election.  The company, which is headquartered in Toronto, Canada and Denver,... Read More

Southern States Made It Harder to Vote in 2020
2020 Elections
Southern States Made It Harder to Vote in 2020
March 19, 2021
by Dan McCue

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Election systems in the Deep South in 2020 suffered from numerous shortcomings, making it harder for many voters -- particularly those from communities of color -- to safely cast their ballots, states a new analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The report... Read More

Supreme Court Rejects Final Trump Bid to Reverse 2020 Election
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Rejects Final Trump Bid to Reverse 2020 Election
March 8, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a bid by former President Donald Trump to nullify his election loss in Wisconsin, rejecting the last remaining appeal seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s victory. In an unsigned order, the justices declined to take up Trump’s lawsuit... Read More

It's All Over In New York's 22nd Congressional District
It's All Over In New York's 22nd Congressional District
February 9, 2021
by Dan McCue

Former Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., a star among moderates in his party, has conceded to Republican challenger and former Rep. Claudia Tenney, at long last ending the 2020 election cycle. Brindisi had been expected to appeal a New York State Supreme Court order that all eight... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top