On Super Tuesday, voters in fourteen states go to the polls to select their presidential pick. There are 1,344 pledged delegates are up for grabs — just over a third of all delegates in the Democratic nominating process — the most to be determined on a single day in the 2020 primary cycle. With the make-or-break nature of the impending contests, presidential hopefuls have been strategically targeting certain states with visits and ads while trying to keep the campaign coffers from running out.
Only one of the eight presidential candidates in the race has been flooding all of the Super Tuesday states with television and radio ads: Mike Bloomberg. March 3 will be the first test for Bloomberg, a multibillionaire who has already unloaded more than half a billion dollars in an unorthodox presidential bid that bypassed the first four early states to focus on Super Tuesday and beyond.
Leading up to Super Tuesday, Bloomberg has spent more than $170 million on ads in the fourteen states holding contests. As part of a final pitch to voters, Bloomberg's campaign released an ad that claiming he has a proven track record of getting results. In a minute-long spot first aired in California, the narrator says, "Mike is still getting things done, so ask yourself, for president, do you want a debater or a doer?" As Bloomberg comes under fire, another ad argues voters to not fall for "negative untrue attacks" against the candidate while highlighting past praise by President Obama.
At the same time, Bloomberg's vast fortune enables him to do what no other candidate has the resources to match. He bought ad space on Sunday night to deliver a three-minute "address to the nation on coronavirus." The taped remarks aired nationally on CBS and NBC, although its impact may have been somewhat muted, since it aired at 8:30 p.m., asof his presidential campaign.
In the week leading up to Super Tuesday, Bloomberg has also released ads that are state-specific, including one about protecting the environment in Utah, and funding Planned Parenthood in Austin, Texas. He also released an ad about combating gun violence that first aired in El Paso, where 22 people were killed in a shooting last year.
Apart from Bloomberg, only Sanders is airing TV and radio ads in nearly all Super Tuesday states, a move that can be chalked up to his success in record-breaking grassroots fundraising. In January, Sanders raised a record $25 million, only to shatter his own record when he raised more than $46 million in March. To date, he has raised $167 million, more than any other Democratic presidential candidate in the race and has had more cash on hand of anyone apart from Bloomberg, who is self-funding his campaign.
According to Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group tracking, the Vermont senator has spent more than $16.5 million for ads in 13 Super Tuesday states with the exception of his home state. He has outlasted one of the billionaires — Tom Steyer dropped his presidential bid after failing to finish in the top two in South Carolina Saturday.
"When we stand together, we will make billionaires pay their fair share, provide better pay for workers and provide equal pay for women," Sanders says in an ad first aired in Austin. "We will expand Social Security and guarantee health care for all." His direct appeal to the camera aided by a few visuals echoes his message on the campaign trail.
Buttigieg was the only other candidate who was airing ads in nearly every Super Tuesday state. He aired ads in twelve of the Super Tuesday states, excluding Tennessee and Utah. But his spending was a fraction of Sanders' outlays so far, just over $2 million with the most going towards ad buys in North Carolina, Minnesota and Colorado.
Buttigieg's ad spending was enhanced by the super PAC, VoteVets which recently announced a seven-figure ad buy in Super Tuesday states including California.
Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden are also reaping the benefits of super PAC money. As of Sunday, Warren's campaign has spent less than $2 million on ads in just half of the Super Tuesday states. When her campaign announced it had raised $29 million in February, it bumped ad spending in those states to $2.4 million.
The Persist PAC supporting her, however, has spent nearly $12 million in Super Tuesday states. Its investment included more than $5.5 million in California where Warren had spent less than $10,000 to date and $2.5 million in Texas, more than triple what Warren had spent in the Lone Star state.
"You've probably seen more ads for Michael Bloomberg than the rest of us running for president put together," Warren says in a campaign ad first aired in Colorado. "Big money is powerful but it doesn't always win." Another campaign ad highlights Warren's modest upbringing, calling her a "fighter." Persist PAC has focused on how she knows how to fight.
Klobuchar, meanwhile, is spending more than $4.6 million on ads in eight Super Tuesday states, where she's doubling down on messaging about her ability to win in the Midwest.
"He'll do anything he can to hold on to power, but I'll take the fight to Donald Trump," Klobuchar says in an ad first aired in her home state of Minnesota. She's one of several candidates taking aim at the president in Super Tuesday messaging. "I've won in rural, urban and suburban areas every time, even districts Donald Trump won."
The Kitchen Table Conversations PAC supporting her makes the same argument. "You don't see a lot of Democrats win around here, except Amy Klobuchar, and I'll tell you why," a narrator says as images of Kittson County, Minnesota, play across the screen before ticking off a series of plans she's proposed. "With Amy Klobuchar, there's no such thing as a red state, or a red county," narrators say. The ad first aired in Oklahoma City, less than a week before Super Tuesday.
At the same time, despite his first place finish in South Carolina, Biden is spending the least of any candidates on ads in Super Tuesday states, apart from Tulsi Gabbard. The former vice president has bought less than $1.5 million in ad time in just eight Super Tuesday states. As was the case in earlier contests, his ads highlight his relationship with President Obama.
An ad playing in North Carolina and Arkansas features the former president praising Biden while giving him the Medal of Freedom in 2017. "This is an extraordinary man, with an extraordinary career in public service," Mr. Obama says as he describes Biden's efforts to revitalize manufacturing, combat gun violence and make college more affordable. Biden had already used other parts of the same Obama speech in an earlier ad aired in Iowa.
But like several of his challengers, Biden too has substantial Super PAC support. Unite the Country outspent Biden on ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. It also spent in Nevada and South Carolina. Recently, the PAC revealed a six-figure investment in digital ads across battleground states ahead of Super Tuesday.
Tom Steyer, like Buttigieg, has exited the race, after failing to finish at the top in South Carolina. But before he did, he dropped more than $42 million on Super Tuesday states.
Overall, more than $240 million has been spent by the candidates (including Steyer and Buttigieg) on ads hitting the airwaves in Super Tuesday states, as the candidates sprint to the finish of this part of the primary race.