Fifty days out from the presidential election, President Trump’s campaign is showing conspicuous signs that its onetime financial advantage over Joe Biden is now a major deficit.
Facing what appears to be a significant cash shortage, the Trump campaign has, for now, completely gone off the TV airwaves in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two of the core swing states that the president narrowly wrested from Democrats four years ago — and states where Trump has consistently trailed Biden in the polls throughout 2020.
Trump is also at an airtime disadvantage in other key states, Bloomberg reports:
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.
The Trump team, which just a few months ago seemed to have an insurmountable cash edge on the Democrats, raised $210 million in August. After struggling mightily to raise funds during the primary, Biden’s campaign has quickly turned into a financial juggernaut — it raised $365.4 million during that period.
The Washington Post reported last week that, while outside groups have spent an additional $28 million on Trump ads, Biden retains a major advantage — and some leading Republicans, like Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, have sounded the alarm on the pullback from TV.
Bill Stepien, who took over as the head of Trump’s campaign after the profligate Brad Parscale was demoted earlier this year, has cast the move as a necessary adjustment to gear up for the final 30-day stretch of the campaign. Stepien and other campaign officials have emphasized what they characterize as a superior ground game and have reminded reporters that they fielded similar questions about the Trump campaign’s priorities four years ago.
In 2016, the Trump campaign eschewed a TV-dominated strategy, calculating that voters were already familiar with their candidate. The campaign instead focused much of its advertising and persuasion efforts on Facebook and other websites — an unorthodox strategy that paid off.
The campaign is once again spending heavily on digital advertising; it has has plowed $170 million into Facebook and Google since 2019. In comparison, the Biden campaign spent $90 million in digital advertising during that time. The Trump campaign has also run prominent ads on YouTube and other sites. Those spots, according to both campaigns, seem primarily aimed at turning out voters who are already fans of the president. But with large swaths of suburban voters turning away from the president, counting primarily on base mobilization may be riskier than it was in 2016.