Haley Plans $4 Million Ad Buy to Boost South Carolina Bid

(Bloomberg) -- Nikki Haley will launch a $4 million advertising campaign in her home state of South Carolina the day after the New Hampshire primary, as she tries to convince Republican primary voters that her presidential campaign will exit next Tuesday’s contest in a stronger position to take on Donald Trump, her campaign manager said Saturday.

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“We always wanted to be strong in Iowa and even stronger in New Hampshire, and we’re on track to do that,” Betsy Ankney told reporters at a luncheon hosted by Bloomberg News in Manchester.

“Beating Donald Trump is not easy. He’s a juggernaut. But how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” she said.

Haley has emerged as the strongest challenger to former President Donald Trump in New Hampshire, which holds its first-in-the-nation primary Tuesday. But although she’s shot up 30 points over four months in the Granite State, she still trails Trump by nearly 16 points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls.

In South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary, Haley trails by 30 points.

Ankney said Haley will make a statement about her South Carolina campaign by advertising in all seven of the state’s television markets, buttressed by a homecoming rally in Charleston.

The $4 million reservation of advertising time, which includes broadcast television, radio, cable, digital and streaming, would be the largest of any campaign in South Carolina. Among the campaigns, only the Trump campaign has been advertising in South Carolina, reserving $300,000 in ad time in the state. Two super PACS — one supporting Haley and the other DeSantis — are spending less than $3 million each, but campaigns can buy ads more cheaply under federal broadcasting rules.

Haley’s campaign faces questions about whether she can sustain donor and super PAC support if she has a poor performance in New Hampshire, even before South Carolina.

Donor Support

“The donor support continues to be strong. Our grassroots donors continue to be incredibly strong, which is a testament to our strength across the board,” said Ankney, a low-profile campaign operative running her first presidential campaign after years of experience running US Senate and governor campaigns. “We’ve been smart with our budgeting and our resources and so we fully expect to have the resources to move forward.”

Ankney declined to define what success in New Hampshire would look like short of an upset victory. “I know everyone wants us to put a number on it. We have never done that and we will never do that,” she said.

The campaign will make an unconventional closing argument in the New Hampshire primary, airing a three-minute television ad Monday, focusing on her experience as Trump’s ambassador to the UN.

The ad features the case of Otto Warmbier, the Ohio college student imprisoned by North Korea and who died shortly after being returned to the US in a vegetative state in 2017.

Though the ad doesn’t mention Trump directly, Haley is trying to draw a distinction between her tough stance on North Korea and Trump’s more conciliatory stance toward the regime. Trump said at the time that he would take Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un “at his word” when the dictator said he didn’t know about Warmbier’s mistreatment.

Three-minute television ads are nearly unheard of in presidential politics, where 30-second spots are the norm and 60 seconds are reserved for the most effective messages.

--With assistance from Mario Parker, Nancy Cook and Margaret Collins.

(Updates with details of ad campaign in seventh paragraph)

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