Less than a month after launching his presidential campaign, Michael Bloomberg has spent more than $100 million on television and digital advertising. The billionaire and former New York City mayor has already spent more on ads than all of the other top-tier candidates combined.
Bloomberg’s ad campaign is part of an unprecedented strategy to bypass the first four primary states—Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina—and instead focus on high-delegate battleground states and the Super Tuesday primaries. In the same vein, the campaign plans to keep staff in key states until the November general election, even if Bloomberg is not the Democratic nominee.
Immediately after filling with the Federal Election Committee, Bloomberg spent a record-breaking $37 million on television advertising. As part of that ad buy, he ran an ad called “Did Good,” which aired about two thousand times in California, Texas and Florida, among other states.
Bloomberg also has a robust digital ad campaign. In less than a month, he has already spent $9.2 million on Google ads, second only to the $9.5 million spent by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, which was spent over the course of the entire year.
Bloomberg’s unconventional campaign has caused some to speculate that he is less concerned with obtaining the nomination and more focused on helping defeat Trump. Business Insider’s Grace Panetta reported on how much cheaper it is to run ads as a candidate than through a Political Action Committee—a potential reason for Bloomberg’s late bid for the nomination.
“What we’re focusing on is beating Trump,” said Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s campaign manager. “Mike was doing everything he could from the sidelines, and he finally decided it wasn’t enough to sit on the sidelines, and he needed to do what he could to alter that dynamic.”
However, the ad buys seem to be paying off for Bloomberg, as he has seen an uptick in the polls and now sits firmly in fifth place. According to a recent Suffolk University poll, a majority of Americans have seen a Bloomberg ad—but only 35% of people who viewed an ad found it convincing.
The only other candidate who comes close to Bloomberg’s spending is former hedge fund manager, philanthropist and fellow billionaire, Tom Steyer, who has spent $83.6 million in ad buys. For Steyer, though, the investment is far greater, as his $1.6 billion net worth pales in comparison to Bloomberg’s $56 billion.
Michael Bloomberg is nearing $100 million in TV ad spending through just five weeks in the presidential race – added a total of $36.7 million to TV ad reservations yesterday, bringing total TV spend through week of 12/17 to $96.8 million.
Tom Steyer at $81.1M through that date.
— David Wright (@DavidWright_CNN) December 10, 2019
Bloomberg, ranked eighth on the Forbes 400 list, has already run into controversy this campaign cycle.
Last month, he apologized for his support of stop-and-frisk policing, saying, “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” In another interview, he claimed that Chinese leader Xi Jinping faced sufficient accountability and was not a dictator. And after his entry into the race, his media company, Bloomberg News, announced it would not investigate him or any of his Democratic opponents, pursuant to a long-standing policy against covering its eponymous owner.
Bloomberg’s Democratic rivals have expressed even less enthusiasm about his massive ad spending. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), an outspoken proponent for income redistribution, famously declared, “Billionaires should not exist.”
Even Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a moderate, lamented Bloomberg and Steyer’s disproportionate ad spending. During a recent appearance on The View, Klobuchar said, “for a lot of the people that aren’t in the early states, they must think only two people are running. Well that’s because the rest of us can’t afford to run ads like that.”
“You just can’t simply allow wealthy people to come in and buy elections,” Klobuchar added. “I don’t think America looks at the guy in the White House and says, ‘Let’s find someone richer.’”