Just weeks before Election Day, the Trump campaign has cancelled ad reservations in markets in several crucial battleground states.
An official with the ad tracking firm Kantar Media confirmed that the Republican nominee is pulling back on some of his ad reservations in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire, Maine and Florida for the upcoming week. The news was first reported by the political unit at NBC. The breakdown of the cuts was provided by a source to The Huffington Post.
Florida: $741k cancelled
West Palm -$217k, Jacksonville -$169k, Ft. Myers -$105k, Mobile -$60k, Tallahassee, -$55k, Panama City -$71k, Gainesville -$64k
North Carolina: $307k cancelled
Greensboro -$90k, Greenville-Spartanburg, -$116k, Greenville New Bern -$68k, Wilmington -$33k
Ohio: $263k cancelled
Dayton -$95k, Toledo -$48k, Youngstown -$74k, Zanesville -$5k, Lima -$6k, Charleston-Huntington -$28k, Wheeling -$7k
Iowa: $165k cancelled
Cedar Rapids, -$70k, Quad Cities, -$63k, Sioux City, -$32k
Colorado: $32k cancelled
Grand Junction, -$32k
New Hampshire: $53k cancelled
Pennsylvania: $179k cancelled
Wilkes Barre, -$90k, Johnstown, -$46k, Erie -$43k
Maine: $93k cancelled
Portland -$78k, Presque Isle, -$15k
An official with Kantar Media said that the cancellation didn’t look as if it was being replaced with spending elsewhere. But the Trump campaign disputed that it was simply taking $1.5 million off the air. In tweets, spokesman Jason Miller said they would be putting that money, and more, into other markets.
If Trump is scaling back his ads, or even changing the markets he is prioritizing, it is not without risk.
For starters, he may end up having to pay a higher rate on the ads if he re-invests a week from now, since the preferable rates he booked by reserving early will have been lost. The markets he appears to be abandoning, moreover, seem on the surface to be critical for his chances of victory.
In Florida, for example, Trump is cutting back on ads in seven of the state’s 10 markets, according to reporting by NBC News. These include places like Fort Myers, Jacksonville and Pensacola, where Trump needs to harvest every possible Republican vote to make up for the drubbing he is certain to take in South Florida.
And in Ohio, the same pattern is holding true.
One potential explanation for why the Trump campaign may be scaling back ― if that proves to be the case ― is that it simply doesn’t have the cash on hand to afford these ad reservations.
At the moment, the Republican campaign’s finances are a bit of a mystery. Press releases from his official campaign have touted hauls of $90 million in August and $80 million in July, the only two full months the candidate has raised money from donors. Actual disclosures have found the official Trump campaign to have received $41 million in August and $36 million in July.
This disparity exists because the press releases include contributions to two joint fundraising committees that distribute funds between the campaign and the Republican National Committee. It is hard to tell exactly how much of the money raised for the joint committees is set to go to the campaign and how much to the RNC as they have not distributed all of their funds yet.
The Trump campaign boasted of raising $18 million in the 24 hours after the first presidential debate. Like the previous press releases, this total includes money raised for the joint committees. It is again unclear how much of the $18 million is scheduled to go to Trump’s campaign and how much to the RNC.
The division of money between the actual campaign and the RNC matters. Campaigns are afforded the lowest unit rate for television advertising while political parties are not. This means that dollars raised by the campaign are more valuable than dollars raised for other committees as they can purchase more ads at lower cost. Further, the RNC can only spend a limited amount of money in coordination with the Trump campaign.
This wouldn’t be the first time a candidate had to essentially cede the battlefield due to a lack of funds. Late in the 2008 race, Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign pulled its advertising reservations in five states. He moved that money into other states that could potentially provide a path to victory. As we know, it did not help.