Trump Not Satisfied With Massive Earned Media; Ready to Buy Some, Too

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Donald Trump Campaigns In Grand Rapids
Donald Trump Getting Perilously Close to Running an Old-Fashioned Presidential CampaignPhoto: Scott Olson/2015 Getty Images

One of the great anomalies of the 2015 GOP Invisible Presidential Primary is that the candidate whose super-pac dominated TV advertising, Jeb Bush, steadily lost ground in the course of the year, while the surprise front-runner, Donald Trump, barely spent money on advertising at all. But according to a report from Fox News’s Howard Kurtz, “That is about to change,” and he’s not talking about Jeb.  

Sources in the Trump camp say they will soon launch a major ad blitz that could cost at least $2 million a week, and possibly several times that.

There’s a significant difference between $2 million a week and “several times that.” But let’s give Kurtz a break; he got the scoop. Later on, he estimates Trump is willing to spend up to $100 million on ads overall, which falls into the “several times that” category.  

The initial wave of ads will focus on Trump’s vision and his stance on key issues — no bio spots necessary for the celebrity candidate — but that could change if any GOP rivals target him with negative commercials. “If you attack Trump, he will attack you 10 times as hard,” an adviser says. “We will not allow any attack to go unanswered.”

The Trump camp is working with a Florida-based advertising firm, as widely reported, but also with several other media companies, some of which are well-known in the political community, the sources say.

This last sentence is another sign that Trump is gradually being accepted by established vendors in the GOP, if not by the Establishment itself, as an entirely legitimate candidate. Money, like love, covereth a multitude of sins. 

Aside from not having to spend money on introductory bio ads, Trump has another advantage, especially over Bush and Cruz, with their super-pac heavy war chests: By using his own dollars, he’ll get the best possible ad rates from television stations. So a dollar of Trump ad money will go a long way, at a time when super-pacs are beginning to find this cycle’s TV ad rates almost prohibitively high.

And that’s not all: There is a separate, potentially important sign that Trump is serious about running a campaign on something other than earned media fumes: His campaign has sought and received access to the RNC’s voter file. As Politico’s Kenneth Vogel notes, this suggests he’s planning to do something with that massive trove of data:

The list-sharing agreement doesn’t require Trump’s campaign to pay for access to the voter data, but it does suggest that Trump’s campaign has invested at least some cash in a data operation. That’s because the RNC requires campaigns to demonstrate a certain level of technical aptitude before such deals are executed.

But Vogel quotes a skeptic saying these indicia of a serious GOTV operation won’t be enough:

“If the RNC is offering the file for free, then I am sure that the campaign is using it,” said one source close to Trump, who did not want to be identified questioning Trump’s public proclamations. “List or no list, data or no data, analytics or no analytics, without paid advertising in the final stretch, the campaign will not be able to deliver all the supporters Mr. Trump has persuaded.”

Yeah, Trump still won’t have any paid … oh, wait.