The financial woes of President Trump's campaign have forced him to scale back his television advertising in Florida, Iowa and Nevada just as Joe Biden and his allies are pouring huge sums of money into a final burst of TV spots across every battleground state.
The former vice president has bought $54.1 million in TV ad time for the last eight days before the election, more than double the $26.9 million in purchases by the Trump campaign, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.
The playing field for TV ads will tilt further toward the Democratic nominee on Wednesday as former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg starts spending $15 million on Texas and Ohio spots that will promote Biden and attack Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2016, Trump won Texas by 9 percentage points and Ohio by 8, but recent polls show the race now virtually tied in both states.
Bloomberg, a billionaire who is also spending $100 million in Florida on TV ads and other efforts to defeat Trump, conducted polling over the weekend that convinced him that a big play in Texas and Ohio would be worthwhile in the campaign's closing days, aides said.
"I would argue that both of those states right now are toss-ups in ways that I think will surprise people, win or lose, the day after the election when their results are in," said Kevin Sheekey, a top Bloomberg political advisor. The new Bloomberg spending was first reported by the New York Times. The former mayor spent a billion dollars of his fortune on his own failed primary bid for the Democratic nomination.
It's unclear whether TV ads can sway many voters in the closing days of the race. Nearly 70 million Americans have already cast their ballots, according to the nonpartisan U.S. Elections Project.
Biden's ad spending spans the entire map of election battlegrounds. For the campaign's final week, he has increased his TV ad buys in Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, Minnesota, Texas and New Hampshire. In every state, he is outspending Trump.
Trump, who has lagged far behind Biden in fundraising, is allocating his money to a shrinking set of states, and he's relying heavily on the Republican National Committee to buttress his spending in the final stretch. Trump's triage — he has yanked tens of millions of dollars in advertising that he'd initially booked for the fall campaign — is revealing of how his campaign sees the president's most promising path to victory in the state-by-state contest for an electoral college majority.
Trump has increased his TV ad spending this week in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, suggesting he's banking on maximizing support among white working-class voters in those northern industrial states, just as he did four years ago. Trump's narrow wins in those states enabled him to capture the presidency despite his loss to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.
Trump also sharply increased his spending this week in Minnesota, which Clinton won by just 1.5 percentage points.
Campaigning Tuesday in Michigan, Trump predicted he would win Minnesota this time in part because of ill will toward Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, one of the first two Muslim women in Congress and a frequent target of his attacks. He also said anger over protests in the city last spring — after the police killing of George Floyd — would bring him voters.
Trump is also resuming his spending on TV ads in Ohio this week after six weeks of Biden having the airwaves there to himself.
At the same time, Trump has canceled the $922,000 in New Hampshire TV ads he'd initially reserved for the campaign's final week and decreased his spending in Nevada and Iowa, according to Advertising Analytics.
The $2.9 million that Trump is spending on his final eight days of TV advertising in Florida is a drop from $4.2 million the previous week and far below Biden's $15.1 million. The other states where Trump continues to spend heavily are North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.