Trump to drop $10 million on Super Bowl ad

By Alex Isenstadt

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is planning to drop $10 million to advertise during the Super Bowl, the start of a massive election-year spending spree that will intensify over the coming months, according to four people briefed on the plans.

The campaign has purchased 60 seconds of commercial time during the Feb. 2 Super Bowl, which is likely to be the most-watched television event of the year. The ad or ads — it’s unclear whether it will be a single 60-second spot or a pair of 30-second commercials — are expected to run early in the game, when viewership is likely to be at its highest.

With the investment, the Trump campaign is dipping into a deep war chest it has amassed over the last year. The reelection effort and the Republican National Committee announced last week that they raised a combined $463 million in 2019 and had nearly $200 million on hand.

The Super Bowl advertising, coming a day before the Iowa Democratic caucuses, is part of a broader spending effort. Starting this month, campaign aides say they intend to increase their TV, radio, and digital advertising.

They have also approved plans to spend millions of dollars on outreach to key voting blocs including women, evangelicals, Latinos, and African Americans. Trump campaign recently launched an aggressive effort to woo black voters, taking out ads on African American-owned radio and newspapers.

“The president’s decision to stay aggressive and keep the campaign open after his first election gave us a huge head start on his reelection,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement, referring to the president's announcement within days of his 2017 inauguration that he would seek reelection. “Now 300 days out we are throttling up. The president has built an awesome, high-performance, omnichannel machine and it’s time to give it some gas.”

This won't be the first time the campaign advertises during a major sporting event. The reelection campaign ran commercials during last year’s World Series declaring that Trump’s “no Mr. Nice Guy, but sometimes it takes a Donald Trump to change Washington.”

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also purchased $10 million in Super Bowl advertising time, an aide to the billionaire Democratic candidate said. The New York Times first reported Bloomberg’s plans.

Nearly 100 million people watched last year’s Super Bowl.

Trump aides said they’re still determining the content of the Super Bowl advertising. They are planning on rolling out the ad via text message to supporters in the days before the game, with the hopes of building their supporter list.

The Trump campaign has been in talks with Fox, which is airing the game, since the fall and reserved the advertising time in December. It will be paying for it this month.

Republicans devoted 2019 to building a massive war chest in anticipation of a high-spending election year. The Trump political operation capitalized off small donor outrage over the Democratic impeachment push, but also courted big donors.

On Saturday evening, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel toasted major givers at a thank you-style event in Palm Beach, Fla. And later this month, Trump will host Republican donors for a high-dollar fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Trump is almost certain to begin the general election with a vast cash advantage. Democrats are locked in an expensive and competitive primary that could stretch on for months and leave the party’s eventual nominee far behind the president. Some Democratic strategists worry that Trump will use his financial resources to savage his Democratic opponent before he or she is able to get their general election campaign off the ground.

"The Trump campaign's major advantage has been and continues to be the one resource Democrats don't have: time,” said Tara McGowan, a prominent Democratic digital strategist who is overseeing a multi-million-dollar effort to counter Trump’s spending advantage.

Josh Schwerin, a senior strategist for the liberal super PAC Priorities USA, said his organization wasn’t “worried about Trump wasting money during the Super Bowl,” but added: “We are worried about the potential for him to spend nine figures defining our eventual nominee before they can defend themselves.”

Without a Democratic opponent to run against, much of Trump’s early spending is likely to be geared toward boosting his approval numbers. It will also be heavily focused on winning over minority voters. While Trump’s advisers concede he isn’t likely to win a substantial portion of the minority vote — he received just 8 percent of African-American voters in 2016 — they contend that by making small inroads with key voting blocs he can swing key battlegrounds.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Bloomberg’s Super Bowl ad is expected to take aim at Trump. The former mayor’s campaign hasn’t disclosed the content of the commercial.