GOP Presidential Hopefuls Are Poised to Shatter Ad Spending Records

(Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential campaigns are already on track to spend historic amounts of money on television, radio and digital advertising less than five months away from Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus.

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GOP presidential candidates and allied super political action committees have already spent $158 million on advertising, according to data from AdImpact. During the last open primary for Republicans in 2016, campaigns spent $325 million on the primary and general election combined.

Challengers to former President Donald Trump are using advertising as a key driver to bolster name recognition — and ideally support — among voters in early voting primary states. Trump is easily the front-runner, but in Iowa where campaigns have concentrated buying ad time, top spenders have been able to juice support in the polls with TV and digital commercials.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott leads the crowded primary field in advertising. Scott’s campaign and aligned Trust In the Mission PAC account for nearly one-third — $50.9 million — of Republican spending this cycle. That spending has paid off for Scott in Iowa, where he is currently in third place, behind Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He averages 10.2% in Iowa polls, compared with 2.4% nationally, according to RealClearPolitics.

Scott, who is the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, has support from several deep-pocketed donors, including Apollo Global Management’s Marc Rowan and Stan Druckenmiller, founder of Duquesne Family Office.

The Scott-aligned super-PAC has spent over $37 million on advertising, more than any group. Never Back Down, the group backing DeSantis, trails Scott with over $31 million in spending. DeSantis is also polling better in Iowa with 17.2%, compared to 13.5% nationally, according to the RealClearPolitics average.

Television ads for Scott are so common in Iowa that commercials supporting the senator are playing back-to-back in some markets, said Timothy Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa.

During a campaign stop earlier this month, Scott repeated a line from his commercial – “If you take out a loan, you pay it back” – and was surprised when the audience finished the line in unison, speaking to the ubiquity of the ads.

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