Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is pulling millions of dollars worth of television ads off the air in Minnesota as Democratic challenger Joe Biden maintains a steady lead in polls in the state.
The Trump campaign, which pledged to spend $14 million on ads in Minnesota earlier in the campaign cycle, has been slashing spending in the state since mid-September, according to ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics and filings with the Federal Communications Commission.
The company’s tracking also shows the Trump campaign pulling back ad spending in other Midwestern battlegrounds such as Wisconsin and Michigan while buying more TV time in the swing states of Florida, Arizona and North Carolina.
While the numbers regularly change, Trump has trimmed millions of dollars and hundreds of ads in Minnesota in recent weeks, a state he came within 44,000 votes of winning in 2016. The Star Tribune/MPR News/Kare 11 Minnesota Poll in late September showed Biden with a 6-point lead over Trump in the state, essentially unchanged from the same poll in May. Polling averages tracked by the political and statistical analytics website FiveThirtyEight show Biden with an 8.8 percentage point advantage in Minnesota.
Biden’s campaign made an initial $3 million investment in ads in Minnesota, and its spending has remained steady in the campaign’s final stretch.
In a strategy memo, the Biden campaign said it’s running “an aggressive paid media program” including ads in the Minneapolis, Rochester and Duluth markets, as well as a Spanish language and rural radio ad buy and digital targeting.
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But Trump is still vowing to win Minnesota, and his campaign has maintained a heavy travel schedule in the state. Trump has been to Minnesota three times in three months, including a rally in Duluth last week just before he announced his positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Vice President Mike Pence, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. also have campaigned in the state.
Trump allies have criticized Biden for visiting the state only once, for a meeting with union members in Duluth. Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, has campaigned in the state twice.
“If overspending on TV ads determined the outcome of elections, Hillary Clinton would be president,” said Samantha Zager, the Trump campaign’s deputy national press secretary. “It’s cute that Joe Biden and his campaign think buying ads in these states makes up for years of Democrats viewing them as flyover country.”
Clinton was criticized after the 2016 election for not putting sufficient campaign muscle into Midwestern battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin, which she narrowly lost. She did not campaign at all in person in Minnesota after winning the Democratic nomination.
In response to Trump’s ad cutbacks, Minnesota GOP Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and the Minnesota GOP are still making “historic investments to turn out Trump supporters all across the state to deliver our 10 Electoral College votes on November 3rd.”
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said in a text that TV ads aren’t crucial. “Trump was massively outspent by Hilary Clinton four years ago and it didn’t matter,” he said.
Trump has been running ads in Minnesota that seek to tie Biden to “lawless” protesters, playing off the arson and looting that wracked the Twin Cities after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
The ads promise that Trump will bring “jobs, not mobs.” Biden’s spots have focused on the economy and health care, criticizing Trump for his response to the pandemic.
The Trump advertising cuts come less than one month from Election Day and as Minnesotans are already flocking to vote early and by mail.
Recent data from the Secretary of State’s Office show more than 1.4 million Minnesotans have requested absentee ballots and more than 336,000 have been accepted, a roughly 600 percent increase from the same period four years ago.