Fail: Hillary Spent $33 Million on Ads in August, As Her Lead Collapsed

Posted: Sep 21, 2016 3:16 PM

Good thing she raised a ridiculous amount of money last month, with which she can spend even more money on commercials.  Because, as you can see, shelling out piles of cash to build a dominant on-air advertising advantage has really worked like a charm for her thus far.  One can picture Jeb Bush perusing this Washington Post report, shaking his head and muttering, "it's 2016, I could have told you so" at the woman for whom his father is reportedly planning to vote:

The massive investment that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is making on the airwaves dominated her spending in August, as her campaign plowed more than $33 million in ad production and airtime, a new campaign finance filing shows. Clinton's media expenses accounted for 68 percent of the $49 million that her campaign raced through in its biggest spending month yet. She doled out $5 million to pay 789 staffers in August. And she dramatically upped her polling, shelling out almost $1.3 million to five separate firms, up from $244,173 in July. The former secretary of state still ended the month with more than $68 million in the bank, thanks to her record-breaking fundraising in August. She collected $62.5 million for her campaign and $81 million for the Democratic National Committee and state parties, thanks to high-dollar fundraisers she headlined around the country. As Clinton was gathering those large checks, her small donations dropped...

Trump, by contrast, has been cleaning up with small donors, even as his overall numbers fall well short of hers.  In the midst of her sizable convention bounce, while Trump was indefensibly spending zero dollars on air, Mrs. Clinton built a formidable national lead.  Then came the reboot.  Trump brought in a new team, adopted a new campaign style (which reportedly has earned him a second look from... Ted Cruz?), and started airing ads.  Meanwhile, Hillary faced a gauntlet of negative press about her shady foundation and rotting email scandal, incessantly reminding voters of why they dislike and distrust her so much.  Her campaign sought to pad her lead with $33 million in advertising, which accounted for nearly 70 percent of her outlays in August; instead, the barrage of paid commercials at best limited the damage.  How does this return on investment look?

As Ed Morrissey notes, "At the moment, the race is all but tied, and Hillary has lost ground over the last four weeks. FiveThirtyEight’s polling aggregation and analysis now gives Trump a 42.9% chance of winning the election, nearly quadrupling the 10.8% shot Trump had five weeks ago." Still, getting completely swamped on-air probably isn't a good game plan, and reports that Clinton is preparing to spend 53 times more in ad money than Trump in must-win Florida between now and election day shouldn't be casually shrugged off as unimportant.  Trump doesn't need to achieve parity with her, but he does need to compete. He's doing so by investing pretty substantially on the digital side, and has just released a positive 30-second television spot to run in battlegrounds:

This is basically a glossy highlight real of positivity, featuring rapid-fire happy buzzwords. It's a pretty good ad, I think, especially since it's a contrast to the dark and ominous tone Trump sometimes adopts, which is overwhelmingly reflected in his media coverage. The lone negative note of the ad is fleeting and effective. "Leaving the past behind," the narrator says, as an image of a 90's-era interview with the Clintons flashes on screen.  With older viewers, the purpose of that short clip is to elicit a reaction of "oh right, all that baggage again -- yuck."  For younger viewers, it's "wow, they've been doing this forever."  Sly and savvy.