With nine weeks to go until Nov. 3, both presidential campaigns hit the airwaves in Minnesota on Tuesday, the start of an onslaught of digital and television advertising that will run up until Election Day.
In stark contrast from the limited spending four years ago, the campaigns of President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are already pouring millions of dollars into Minnesota, signaling the state’s new status as a top-tier target this fall in the Midwestern battleground. Trump’s campaign has reportedly reserved $14 million in airtime in Minnesota from Labor Day through the election, seeing it as a prime pickup opportunity after losing to Hillary Clinton four years ago by fewer than 45,000 votes.
Biden holds a narrow lead in the polls in the state, and he has said he is likely to visit Minnesota on his first swing of in-person stops this fall. His campaign has reserved $3 million in ads in Minnesota through November, according to reports in the Hill.
The Biden campaign also announced Tuesday that Spanish-language radio ads will begin airing in Minneapolis. The ads are part of a $280 million TV, radio and digital ad reservation in battleground states across the country.
Clinton didn’t invest significant resources in Minnesota or visit the state after securing the party’s nomination in 2016. Trump made one stop in Minnesota four years ago.
This year, Trump’s campaign has already held several in-person events in the state, including a stop in Mankato last month and a recent Duluth campaign event with Vice President Mike Pence highlighting endorsements from six Minnesota mayors from the Iron Range, an area where Republicans are counting on strong support from white, working-class voters.
Pence also announced a stop in La Crosse, Wis., on Labor Day.
“Joe Biden abandoned the hardworking men and women in states like Minnesota in favor of a radical agenda that would tax them into oblivion and regulate every aspect of their lives — and now he’s paying the price, quite literally, having to spend money in a state that used to be safely Democrat,” said Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary with the Trump campaign.
The Democrats’ first 60-second and 30-second spots, reserved in the Rochester, Duluth and Twin Cities markets, focus on Biden’s record responding to crises as vice president and tout his working-class roots in Scranton, Pa.
“Our president has had months, but he still doesn’t have a plan. What happens now? Joe Biden knows how to lead through a crisis, because he’s done it before,” a narrator says in one ad. “When our economy was on the verge of collapse, Joe Biden led the largest economic stimulus in a generation and saved millions of jobs. Now Joe Biden is ready to lead us through this crisis.”
Minnesota hasn’t elected a Republican for president since Richard Nixon in 1972, but Trump’s losing margin of 1.5% in 2016 was the closest any Republican nominee has come in more than three decades, putting the state in play this year.
While the presidential campaigns battle it out on the airwaves, mailers from the Minnesota Republican Party landed in Minnesota mailboxes this week linking Biden to the “radical left,” picturing him alongside Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
House Democrats’ main super PAC is booking millions in a national fall TV ad blitz, including an extra $675,000 in the First District, where Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn narrowly beat Democrat Dan Feehan two years ago. Feehan is challenging Hagedorn again this fall.
DFL U.S. Rep. Angie Craig also recently hit the airwaves in the south suburban Second District, focusing on healthcare in her first ad of the cycle.
The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) said Monday it will pump an additional $500,000 to prevent a “liberal trifecta” in Minnesota. Tim Walz, a Democrat, holds the governor’s office and Democrats control the state House, but the Republican group said its spending will aim to help keep the state Senate in GOP hands and flip the House to a Republican majority. Walz is not on the ballot this fall.
Republicans, including the Trump campaign, are zeroing in on a message of law and order after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked widespread unrest across the country.
“It’s no surprise that looting, rioting, and destroying cities isn’t sitting well with Minnesota’s voters — and Democrats are now scrambling to put daylight between themselves and their dangerous rhetoric that encouraged this widespread violence for the past several months,” RSLC President Austin Chambers said in a statement. “National and state Democrats this summer chose to defund the police, incite hatred, and sow chaos — a record they’ll have to own for the next 64 days.”