A full year out from the 2020 election, President Donald Trump has already spent more on digital advertising than the four leading Democratic candidates combined.
According to data from ACRONYM, a digital marketing non-profit, Trump’s re-election campaign has spent $27 million to date on ads on Google and Facebook. In comparison, the four leading Democratic contenders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, have spent $4.1 million, $7.1 million, $5.8 million and $6.8 million respectively.
The bulk of Trump’s advertising focus has been on Facebook. His campaign has spent $16 million of his enormous $308 million war chest on the platform. In just the last quarter, the Trump Campaign and the RNC raised $125 million. By contrast, the DNC has only raised $66 million since 2018.
At several points in the campaign so far, Trump’s various re-election committees have spent more on ads in a single week than some Democratic candidates have spent in total since they launched their campaigns.
A frequent subject of the ads is the impeachment inquiry. During the week after House Democrats announced their formal impeachment inquiry, the Trump campaign quickly mobilized and spent over $2 million on Facebook ads, urging supporters to “HELP FIGHT IMPEACHMENT.”
In a recent interview with Fox News, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was bullish of Trump’s preparedness for ad spending ahead of the general election.
“I think Democrats are freaked out,” Parscale said. “I think we’re further ahead than anything that has ever existed.”
Fundraising has clearly reached new heights in recent years; during the same quarter in the 2012 election cycle, President Barack Obama’s campaign and the DNC only raised $70 million in their eventually successful re-election bid. Reflecting on Trump’s prolific fundraising, David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, issued a grim warning in an interview with Politico.
“The general election started, and only one side is on the field,” Plouffe said. “I consider this to be a DEFCON 1 situation. This isn’t a ‘nice to have.’ It is a ‘have to have.’”
While Democrats continue to compete with each other for the nomination, Republicans will enjoy the advantage of focusing solely on re-election and preparing for the general election, Plouffe said, which puts the onus on Democrats to transition from the primary to the general as quickly as possible.
“What if our nomination process actually goes through June? There’s a scenario we have a de facto nominee by April. I hope that’s the case, but we may not,” Plouffe said. “That person is going to have less than five months…to run a completely different campaign.”
In the meantime, Trump is going to “spend heavily on digital” and “enter the general election with a hell of a lot more sophistication in all these battleground states than the Democratic nominee,” Plouffe added.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the fundraising gap will likely dwindle as the Democratic primaries conclude, when Democrats will be able to establish a joint fundraising committee to combat the Trump campaign and support their nominee.
During the 2016 election, former nominee Hillary Clinton’s joint fundraising committee raked in nearly $530 million to support her campaign and other arms of the Democratic Party.