Is Trump Outmaneuvering Clinton on TV?

November 2, 2016

by Jon Schweppe


Last month, I wrote about the Associated Press’ interactive tool that allows us to see where both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — as well as the various super PACs supporting or opposing them — are spending money on TV ads. You can check it out here.

At the time, the situation looked somewhat dire. Week to week, the Trump campaign was getting outspent by the Clinton campaign at least 5 to 1, and sometimes by more. Things have improved dramatically since.

Trump’s October TV Ad Spending:

  • October 2 – October 8: $6,723,974
  • October 9 – October 15: $10,299,758
  • October 16 – October 22: $13,974,642
  • October 23 – October 29: $15,248,878

Clinton’s October TV Ad Spending:

  • October 2 – October 8: $24,615,578
  • October 9 – October 15: $27,178,214
  • October 16 – October 22: $27,184,236
  • October 23 – October 29: $38,631,418

The Clinton campaign still has quite an edge, but the Trump campaign has at least been competitive in October. It’s also interesting to see where both campaigns are spending:

Clinton’s TV Ad Spending By State (October 16 – 22):

  • Florida: $7,021,119
  • Pennsylvania: $3,211,502
  • Ohio: $3,164,488
  • North Carolina: $2,508,899
  • Nevada: $1,812,832
  • New Hampshire: $1,464,935
  • Colorado: $1,117,840
  • Iowa: $1,033,225
  • Arizona: $530,750
  • Georgia: $161,322

Clinton’s TV Ad Spending By State (October 23 – 29):

  • Florida: $10,467,397
  • Ohio: $5,027,531
  • Pennsylvania: $4,746,023
  • North Carolina: $4,059,559
  • Nevada: $2,667,294
  • New Hampshire: $1,675,522
  • Iowa: $1,337,795
  • Arizona: $1,315,618
  • Georgia: $537,814
  • Colorado: $380,067

Trump’s TV Ad Spending By State (October 16 – 22):

  • Florida: $3,480,950
  • Pennsylvania: $1,485,646
  • Ohio: $1,218,202
  • North Carolina: $970,203
  • Colorado: $837,662
  • Nevada: $835,366
  • New Hampshire: $799,516
  • Virginia: $560,140
  • Wisconsin: $471,857
  • Iowa: $334,879

Trump’s TV Ad Spending By State (October 23 – 29):

  • Florida: $4,226,822
  • Pennsylvania: $1,679,017
  • Ohio: $1,401,368
  • North Carolina: $1,268,145
  • Nevada: $936,952
  • Colorado: $821,342
  • New Hampshire: $533,966
  • Wisconsin: $520,879
  • Iowa: $411,696
  • Virginia: $403,090

Trump’s TV ad spending is much more concentrated than Clinton’s. Trump ran ads in 12 states last week, while Clinton ran ads in 18 states. I’ve organized these states based on how the campaigns are treating them:

The High-Profile Battleground States

Florida
Pennsylvania
Ohio
North Carolina

Both campaigns recognize the necessity of winning these states and have spent accordingly. Trump needs Florida and Ohio, and a Trump win in Pennsylvania would likely swing the election his way, while a Clinton win in North Carolina could be enough to prevent Trump from getting to 270.

The Medium-Profile Battleground States

Nevada
Iowa

The airwaves of both of these six electoral vote-carrying states have been under constant assault. Nevada is seeing full pressure from both sides, while Iowa has succumbed to an all-out blitz from Clinton while Trump attempts to hold it strategically while spending more money elsewhere. Trump probably needs both states unless he manages to win Pennsylvania.

The Low-Profile Battleground States

New Hampshire
Maine

New Hampshire doesn’t get the national press a true battleground state probably deserves, but both campaigns see its four electoral votes as critical and are spending accordingly. Maine is a super low-profile battleground state, but both campaigns have each spent more than $200,000 there in the last two weeks, presumably in a battle for the singular electoral vote cast by Maine’s 2nd congressional district (ME-2).

Red States Clinton Thinks She Can Steal

Georgia
Arizona
Nebraska

It wouldn’t be October without a few surprises, and Clinton has ramped up spending in Georgia, Arizona, and, to a lesser degree, Nebraska. Trump is barely spending anything in these states — it appears he just started a small TV campaign at the tail end of the week in Georgia — so Clinton could theoretically stand to gain ground.

A small caveat on Nebraska: My guess is that Clinton is spending in the Omaha TV market in Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district (NE-2). Like Maine, Nebraska allocates electoral votes according to congressional district, so Clinton could potentially win NE-2 and steal an electoral vote. NE-2 also happens to reside on the border with western Iowa, so this could potentially be a “kill two birds with one stone” strategy.

Blue States Trump Thinks He Can Steal

Virginia
Colorado
Wisconsin

Trump is attempting to expand his map, understanding that he will need to win one or two traditionally blue states to get to 270. The high-profile battles are taking place in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, but Trump has opened new fronts in Virginia (a state that has been written off and reconsidered so many times this cycle it’s exhausting), Colorado, and Wisconsin. Last week, the Clinton campaign was outspent in each of these states by a decent chunk of change. This could potentially allow for Trump to close the gap, especially in a state like Wisconsin, where Clinton has barely competed. With just six days to go, that may ultimately prove to be a fatal mistake.

The Clinton campaign has outspent the Trump campaign by hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads, but strategically, it’s possible that the Trump campaign has outmaneuvered them and leveraged a superior strategy. We’ll find out on Tuesday.

Jon Schweppe is the Communications Director at American Principles Project.


Jon Schweppe is the Director of Government Affairs for American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @JonSchweppe

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