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Biden heavily outspends Trump in closing weeks of campaign

Trump and Biden campaigns focus on Pennsylvania
Trump and Biden campaigns focus on Pennsylvan... 04:00

With under two weeks to go before Election Day, Joe Biden is bombarding the airwaves and digital spaces with advertisements and outspending President Trump by tens of millions. 

And that trend seems likely to continue, as Federal Election Commission reports show the Trump campaign had only $63 million going into October, while the Biden campaign had nearly three times as much — $177 million.

The Democratic presidential nominee has been outpacing Mr. Trump on ad spending since July and has already spent more than $515 million on advertisements for the general election — that's over $100 million more than Mr. Trump, who has spent about $409 million, according to tracking by Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group.

It's an unprecedented investment in advertising by a presidential candidate and comes in an election year that has already seen historic early voting, with more than 39.9 million people having already cast their ballots, according to the U.S. Elections Project. And based on states that report party affiliations, the majority of those ballots have been cast by Democrats.

With 14 days to go, Biden has already outspent what Hillary Clinton spent on TV and radio ads across the entire general election from mid-June through Election Day in 2016. Spending more isn't always a harbinger of victory — the former secretary of state's campaign put around $270 million into the race four years ago, while then-candidate Trump spent less than $100 million. Biden's campaign has already placed nearly $400 million in TV and radio ads alone according to Kantar/CMAG.

Eight years ago, President Obama spent an estimated $314 million on local, national and national cable TV ads for his 2012 reelection bid. Republican nominee Mitt Romney spent about $129.5 million on local, national and cable TV in that election. Biden has spent $290 million on the same type of advertising plus another $85 million on local cable and satellite TV.

Biden's dominance on the airwaves is the result of his surge in fundraising as the Democratic nominee. The former vice president, DNC and their joint fundraising committee have raised a staggering $1.1 billion in less than six months.

In an October 17 campaign memo obtained by CBS News, Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon noted that Biden for President has "made the largest investment in paid advertising in the history of presidential campaigns." It's allowed them to "blanket key battleground states" and "communicate directly with key demographics."

Over the course of the general election, Biden is currently projected to spend more than $553 million on ads according to Kantar/CMAG. President Trump is currently projected to drop $439 million on ads through November 3. 

Usually, presidential campaigns at this point are pulling ads and resources from some states and increasing spending in other states, dropping clues about their vulnerabilities. Biden's prolific fundraising suggests that his campaign doesn't have to make those choices. Mr. Trump's campaign, which has raised far more than it did in 2016 and is still spending on TV, says it's also concentrating on voter mobilization efforts.

In a call with reporters Monday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien announced the campaign and RNC will be spending a combined $55 million in paid advertising in the final two weeks of the race. They claim it's an approximately 40% increase over their initial plans.  

The campaign also defended its financial investments, noting Mr. Trump was also heavily outspent in 2016. There are outside groups spending, too, and they're taking a multi-pronged approach. 

"This is really a tale of two campaigns. Joe Biden is putting it all on TV. That's his choice, that's his strategy," said Stepien. "We also have TV ads. We have lots of TV ads in the president's favor. But in addition to that, we're actually running a real campaign, a national campaign — you know, a campaign with voter contacts, a campaign with events, a campaign with surrogates, a campaign with voter registration drives. We like our plan better." 

Big spending in the battlegrounds

The vast majority of ad spending by both campaigns has been centered on a handful of battleground states. For the Biden campaign, most of its investments have been focused predominantly in 16 states. Mr. Trump's campaign has zeroed in on about 11 states in recent weeks.

The state seeing the most television and radio ad spending by the Biden and Trump campaigns is Florida. Biden has spent $91 million already in the Sunshine State, while Mr. Trump has spent more than $60.5 million to date.

Biden is also investing heavily in Pennsylvania, with more than $53 million to date, as recent polls show him with an edge. Mr. Trump, who barely won the state in 2016, has spent less than half of that, with just over $24 million on TV and radio according to Kantar/CMAG. 

Mr. Trump is also being dramatically outspent in Wisconsin and Michigan, two states he narrowly won in 2016 and where recent polls show Biden slightly ahead. In Michigan, the president is being outspent more than two to one with just over $13 million compared to Biden's $33.6 million. In Wisconsin, that ratio is over three to one on television and radio ads, with Biden having spent more than $27 million so far, compared to the president's $7.5 million.

As the presidential race in North Carolina shapes up to be one of the tightest in the country, with 15 electoral votes up for grabs, both candidates are spending heavily. Biden has already dropped more than $39.5 million on TV and radio while Mr. Trump has invested more than $28 million in the state.

And in Arizona, Biden has spent more than $35 million, compared to the president's $20.7 million so far.

One major 2020 battleground where the president has outspent Biden so far is in Georgia, where Mr. Trump has invested $15.6 million to date, compared to the former vice president's $4.4 million. In 2016, Mr. Trump won the state with a 5.1% margin of victory.

The messages

Over the past few weeks, both campaigns have been focusing on the coronavirus, the economy and health care.

The latest Biden ads over the past week tend to reflect the messaging O'Malley Dillon laid out in her memo, including the need to get the coronavirus under control, rebuild the economy, and "unite our country after four years of division."

"We've got this virus now out of control, people out of work, no health care," says a salon co-owner named Maggie in one ad first aired on TV this week. "We're struggling because Trump didn't do his job," claims Sarah who works in the service industry in another. These are two of multiple ads hitting TV over the past week that feature Americans airing frustrations over the handling of the coronavirus and backing Biden. 

Other ads focus on the unemployment numbers in battleground states and tout Biden's economic plans. In a 30-second spot first aired Tuesday, Biden lays out his vision to get to universal health care "quickly," arguing "Americans desperately need it." 

At the same time, there are a number of ads targeting people of color and urging Americans to vote. One features the sister of George Floyd. Another includes Black mayors from across the U.S., while a series also shows a group of young Black men talking about the importance of voting.

"Everybody says your voice is your vote, so if you don't vote, you are comfortable being silenced," a man named George says in one ad. 

And in keeping with their message of unity, on Tuesday, during game 1 of the World Series, Biden aired a one-minute ad in which the narrator says that "there is only one America." It ends with "Joe Biden doesn't need everyone in this country to always agree — just to agree we all love this country and go from there." 

While Biden's campaign features his remarks in TV ads, the Trump campaign appears to focus more on the imagery of the president than his words on the campaign trail. The president has also released far fewer new ads on TV in the past week. There's one new ad on the coronavirus response, as well as spots slamming Biden over taxes, the Second Amendment and Medicare. In the new coronavirus ad, the video shows the rare instance of the president wearing a mask in public. 

"President Trump is leading," the narrator claims, after accusing Biden of not having a COVID response plan. It concludes, "Under President Trump we will be careful but resolute, and we will defeat this virus."

The Trump campaign also touted plans for RNC-created TV ads messaging seniors in Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin in the final weeks. According to the RNC, roughly $14 million of its ad blitz over the next two weeks will be spent on ads about President Trump protecting Medicare. 

These spots started airing on television Tuesday, highlighting health care premium costs in battleground states. In the ads, the announcer falsely warns private insurance would be "eliminated" under the Biden-Harris plan. "Protect your Medicare coverage, vote for President Trump," he says.

Another ad features selected videos of the former vice president talking about raising taxes, but does not include the quotes where Biden says he's talking about the wealthiest Americans. 

The campaign has also unveiled ads aimed at Hunter Biden, but it doesn't appear that the two ads have aired on TV to date. 

Nicole Sganga and Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report. 

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