Donald Trump’s presidential campaign pushed back on a report it had canceled millions of dollars worth of Florida ads.
Confusion arose after Bloomberg News reported the Republican campaign nixed $5.5 million in ads scheduled to run in the Sunshine State before Election Day. That seemed to be based on a report from Advertising Analytics showing Trump redirecting budget to three states he flipped red in 2016 — Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — and one Republicans view as vulnerable — Minnesota.
But Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, called the report “horribly wrong” and said it “should never have been written.”
In truth, the campaign still has a major investment in Florida.
“The campaign, with the RNC coordinated buy, is up with a seven figure buy in Florida on broadcast TV alone,” Murtaugh said in a statement. “In addition in Florida, we are up with six figures in local cable, six figures in Spanish language, and six figures on radio. Our ad buying week by week in the state has been consistent, and the reporting on this issue demonstrated a clear misunderstanding of how ad buying works (and in some cases a misunderstanding of simple addition and subtraction.)”
Confusion appears to have arisen over the source of funding for ads, coordinated with the Republican National Committee. Entities pay different rates for the same ad time.
The Bloomberg report did note Trump still had about $350,275 in spending planned in the Sunshine State. But the outlet said $5.5 million had been moved from Florida, and quoted the campaign explaining why it felt it could rely on existing organization in the state to win Florida while devoting more energy to the Rust Belt.
“You have to have a ground game. Joe Biden does not have one. The President does,” Trump spokesman Tim Murtaugh said on a press call. “Florida is going to go the President’s way.”
The canceled purchases were widely interpreted as a significant retreat from the state where Trump cast his own vote on Saturday. Most political forecasts suggest if Trump can’t secure Florida’s 29 electoral votes, it will be difficult to win a second term.
But regardless of whether Trump wins Florida, the Great Lakes region dramatically increases his shot at winning another four years. In 2016, he defied polls and political predictions by winning not only swing states Ohio and Pennsylvania, but also Michigan and Wisconsin, places where Democrat Hillary Clinton expended little energy and that had been touted as part of Democrats’ “blue wall.”
Murtaugh makes clear resources will still be directed at Florida. In his later statement he tried to explain what sparked confusion on spending here.
“Last week we announced a $55 million buy over the final two weeks, which is a 40% increase over our previous levels,” he said. “Just yesterday we added $6 million on top of that for the final week. Including Florida, the Trump campaign is on television in 12 states and also nationally.”
The party at the state and national level remains focused first on the President’s reelection. And many Trump loyalists in fact lead the Florida Republican establishment. Republican Party of Florida Chair Joe Gruters served as co-chair to Trump’s 2016 campaign, when the Republican beat Clinton by 1 percentage point. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who won the GOP primary in 2018 largely on the strength of Trump’s endorsement, has also campaigned heavily for the President’s reelection.
Most polls, including one this week from St. Pete Polls commissioned for Florida Politics, show Biden leading in Florida, but only narrowly.
Recent days have shown the race tightening. Two outlets often dismissed as right-leaning, Susquehanna Polling and Rasmussen Reports, show Trump leading by 4 percentage points, but all other public polling shows Biden leading within the margin of error.