When a campaign piddles away precious resources on advertising in Washington, D.C. so the candidate can see himself on TV, sometimes it's not the smartest move. The Trump campaign clearly made many other not-so-smart financial moves too.
And so, three weeks out from an election in which Trump is trailing by double-digits nationally and running weak or even behind in must-win states, the Trump campaign is now making some painful advertising choices that include mostly abandoning the Midwest.
Trump, for instance, "yanked more than $17 million" from Ohio, Iowa, and New Hampshire in the six weeks since the GOP convention, according to the L.A. Times. That's particularly notable because Trump needs Ohio and Iowa to win and he's running almost even with Joe Biden in both states.
Trump has also cut $11 million in ad space since the end of August in Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Wisconsin. By a handful of points or more, Biden is running solidly ahead in every one of those states in polling aggregates, and in 2016 Michigan and Wisconsin both helped push Trump across the 270 electoral vote threshold.
Those decisions appear to have all been made so Trump can push resources to states he absolutely has to defend in Sunbelt region. In the last six weeks, the Times notes Trump has directed an extra $18 million to ad buys in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Arizona.
Pennsylvania appears to be the one Rust Belt state the Trump campaign can't afford to surrender. The campaign reportedly pulled $2 million in ads from the state in September but has been increasing spending there in recent weeks.
Nonetheless, Biden maintains a gigantic edge in spending, maintaining his presence in the key Midwestern states that narrowly swung Trump's direction in 2016, while pushing into other states that weren't originally viewed as competitive: Ohio, Iowa, Georgia, and Texas. In the past week ending Monday, the Biden campaign spent twice as much on TV and radio ads as Trump's campaign, $36 million to $18 million. A similar picture emerges since early September, with Biden spending nearly $95 million on TV spots to Trump's $41 million. But CNBC reports that the two campaigns spent roughly the same amount—a little over $5 million—on Facebook ads over the past week.
Hillary Clinton also outspent Trump on ads during the 2016, but one thing Trump hasn't been getting the luxury of this cycle is the enormous amount of free earned media coverage he got at nearly every raucous rally he held. Particularly in these closing months, Trump's rallies have been limited and the mere fact of him holding events that both can and have turned into superspreader events cuts both ways in any case.
Nonetheless, Trump addressed several hundred people from the White House balcony Saturday for roughly 18 minutes, and he has rallies planned this week in Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and North Carolina. On Sunday, Trump declared himself "totally negative" for COVID-19 but provided no evidence for that.