Trump has lost his lead in television advertising
For months President Trump’s campaign boasted that their campaign operation was a “monster” and compared them to the mighty Death Star. Nowhere was this more evident to the general public than on television. According to data from the Kantar / Campaign Media Analysis Group, the Trump campaign and Republican outside groups spent an estimated $ 80.1 million from early May to July 28, 2020, viewing 161,744 ads on local radio, national network and national cable TV for the General President to broadcast election. In contrast, Joe Biden’s campaign and Democratic external groups spent an estimated $ 44.2 million and aired only 66,875 presidential election ads during that period.
But as you can see in the graphic below, by the end of July the Republican Death Star was no longer fully armed and ready for action – while the Democrats began stepping up their game. From July 29 to September 14, the Republican Forces aired only 107,816 ads with an estimated price of $ 71.5 million, while the Democratic Forces aired 183,341 ads for an estimated $ 107.1 million.
What happened in July Trump appointed a new campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who was tasked with fixing the campaign’s cash flow problems and sudden fundraising problems. For most of the year, Trump and the Republican National Committee had comfortably outperformed Biden and the Democratic National Committee, but that advantage was gone by the end of July. And in August, Bidenworld increased Trumpworld by $ 365 million to $ 210 million.
Accordingly, Stepien has reportedly worked to tighten the belt on the campaign – including reducing television advertising in several key states. For example, from early May through August 24, Republicans ran 20,904 Democratic ads out of 18,548 in the Arizona media markets. But the Trump campaign went dark in Grand Canyon State on August 25, and after that, the Democrats sent Republicans 8,922 ads to 3,226 across the state (all but two of the Republican ads were from outside groups).
It’s similar in Pennsylvania: From early May through July 29, Republicans aired 28,438 ads for 17,322 Democrats. But from July 30 to September 14, the Democrats posted 30,882 spots to Republicans on 15,702 – in large part because the Trump campaign only aired two ads in those six weeks. This should be especially alarming to Republicans, as the FiveThirtyEight model believes Pennsylvania is the most likely state to rule the 2020 elections.
The Trump campaign also didn’t air a single commercial in a Michigan-based media market from July 23 through September 7. Although the campaign is now on air again, Michiganders saw 38,261 pro-Biden ads and only 15,866 pro-Trump ads from early May through September 14.
Trump is still on the air in other major states like Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin – but even in those states, Democrats have aired more ads than Republicans since late July. Here are the shifts in each major swing state – defined as those states with a greater than 1 percent chance of being the turning point of the electoral college, according to the FiveThirtyEight model.
Democrats are now broadcasting more swing state ads
How many ads each party broadcast on television for the presidential election in the states most likely to win the 2020 election from May 5 to July 28, compared to July 29 to September 14?
|May 5th – July 28th||July 29th – September 14th|
|state||Turning point||Dem. Ads||GOP ads||Dem. Ads||GOP ads|
“Tipping point chance” is the chance that a federal state will provide the decisive voice in the electoral college. Tipping point opportunities are starting September 15 at 10 a.m. Eastern.
Source: Kantar / Campaign Media Analysis Group
In summary, these numbers look devastating to Trump. And they are, in fact, yet another sign that Trump’s campaign may be in trouble, especially considering that he is the incumbent and, as such, should have a larger war chest. But it’s also important to remember that TV advertising isn’t the be-all and end-all of campaigning. In fact, political scientists do not agree on whether TV spots have a significant impact on elections at all! And the Trump campaign suggests it outperforms Biden in other areas, such as in field offices (Trump has opened more than 280 while Biden has not opened due to the coronavirus pandemic) and digital advertising (from Jan. Trump spent $ 66.8 million on Facebook and Google ads on Sept., while Biden spent $ 46.2 million). And of course there are still seven weeks in the election campaign – enough time for Trump to regain dominance in the airwaves.