President Trump stands to be outspent by tens of millions of dollars on television and radio in the campaign’s final weeks as Democratic nominee Joe Biden puts his significant fundraising advantage to work in key battleground states.
Biden and aligned Democratic groups were on track to invest $169.7 million in television and radio advertising during the final 21 days of the presidential campaign. Trump and allied Republican groups were set to spend nearly $70 million less, with reserved media buys of $101.4 million over the same period.
Even without the assistance of outside groups, comparing the campaigns head-to-head, Biden is poised to air more advertising in the states and media markets likely to decide the outcome of the Nov. 3 election. Republican strategists say Biden’s combined edge in campaign and outside group spending presents serious obstacles for Trump.
“The presidential TV air war is heavily tilted towards Joe Biden, and that’s because they are flush with cash and in an offense position to continue expanding the map over the closing weeks,” said Nick Everhart, a Republican operative and founder of Medium Buying, a media buying and advertising tracking firm.
“Whether it’s state by state spending on TV, national spending on TV, or niche targeted radio, it doesn’t matter,” added Everhart, who is based in Ohio. “Right now, the Biden campaign has a discernible edge with voting going on and heading towards election-day voting when it comes to persuading voters via paid media.”
Biden leads Trump by 8.9 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average of recent national polls. The former vice president holds a smaller but still substantial average lead of 4.5 points in the crucial battleground states. Although the president is within striking distance, mounting a comeback could prove difficult if he gets outgunned on the airwaves down the stretch of the campaign.
According to figures compiled buy Medium Buying, Biden and political groups backing his campaign have reserved millions more in television and radio advertising time in Arizona ($9.9 million); Florida ($13 million); Georgia ($1.9 million); Maine ($345,462); Michigan ($16.7 million); Minnesota ($1.3 million); Nevada ($5.7 million); Pennsylvania ($10.9 million); Texas ($4 million), and Wisconsin ($8.6 million).
Trump holds the edge in four states: Iowa ($300,000); New Hampshire ($1.1 million); North Carolina ($3.3 million), and Ohio ($1.5 million.)
The Biden and Trump campaigns regularly adjust their television ad buys. Through the final 17 days of the campaign, both candidates are likely to shift advertising around to shore up support in more competitive battlegrounds and avoid wasting resources in states where either a solid lead has been established or where it has been determined that further investment is a lost cause.
Biden’s cash advantage gives him a tactical advantage in that he can afford to take risks playing offense in Republican-leaning states, such as Iowa, Ohio, and Texas, and he has plenty of money to spend in critical battlegrounds such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The former vice president raised $383 million in September and entered October with $432 million cash on hand. The Trump campaign has yet to release its September fundraising figures.
Although the Biden campaign is preparing to spend more than the Trump campaign in most states, must-win Florida is among the major exceptions. No Republican nominee has been elected president without winning Florida since 1924. That is perhaps why Trump’s campaign has reserved $15.3 million in television and radio time over the final three weeks, versus $9.8 million for Biden.
Outside groups supporting Biden, including political organizations funded by billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are more than making up the difference in dollars. However, candidate campaigns get better advertising rates from television stations, meaning their dollar-for-dollar expenditures go a lot further than money spent by outside groups.