Feb 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bloomberg's Super Tuesday splurge

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Michael Bloomberg is funneling more than a third of his massive advertising war chest into the 14 states voting on Super Tuesday, data from Advertising Analytics shows.

Why it matters: While most candidates are focusing their dollars and efforts on early primary states, the Democratic presidential candidate has his eyes set on the states he thinks he can win — and those with the most delegates.

Data: Advertising Analytics; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Details: 35% of Bloomberg's ad money has been spent on the four states with the largest number of Democratic delegates — California, New York, Texas and Florida. Nearly half has been spent on Super Tuesday and Rust Belt states.

  • Meanwhile, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have spent more than half of all their ad dollars since last January on early voting states.
  • Biden and Warren were forced to scramble and shift money to New Hampshire as poor Iowa results rolled in, AP reported. Biden is struggling to raise money to last until states with more diverse demographics begin voting.
"While other campaigns have been focused on Iowa, we’ve been building an operation of political and organizing talent across the country that is unmatched and laying the groundwork in the states critical to defeating Trump in November."
— Statement by Bloomberg's 2020 States director, Dan Kanninen

The big picture: Bloomberg's team has also been invested on the ground, hiring staff and setting up offices in every Super Tuesday state, according to the campaign. They aim to have conversations with 10 million voters before Super Tuesday.

Yes, but: While skipping the early primary states ensures that the presidential nominee comes out unscathed ahead of Super Tuesday, it also means Bloomberg has missed out on potentially building more earned media support nationally. 

  • Buttigieg, for example, saw a bump in national polls after Iowa. He was polling fourth in New Hampshire right before the first 2020 caucus. Now, he's polling second, just 5 points behind Sanders, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Early states missed out on the Bloomberg money surge.

  • Total campaign spending on tv, radio and satellite ads on the Iowa caucus fell from 2016 to 2020. This was in part due to the decline in super PACs this election cycle, according to Steve Passwaiter, VP of political advertising at Kantar Media/CMAG, an ad measurement firm.
  • It didn't help that Bloomberg largely skipped over the state.

Go deeper: Bloomberg's big bet on the power of money

Go deeper

Ad spending on 2020 primary tops $1 billion

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Spending on the 2020 presidential primary has officially surpassed the $1 billion mark, with more than half of that total coming from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

Why it matters: It's the most money that has been spent this early on in an election cycle in U.S. history.

Bloomberg's big bet on the power of money

Data: Advertising Analytics, FEC; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Michael Bloomberg’s prolific spending aims to make him as legitimate and familiar as his rivals. It also confronts two realities: President Trump is out-raising all the other Democrats with ease, and the Democratic National Committee is anemic.

Why it matters: Bloomberg is betting that enough exposure — through a $300m+ ad campaign and a non-traditional run that looks past the early four states — will make him competitive in Super Tuesday, and make all Democrats stronger in the general election.

Shortage of dollars, not delegates, may sink Dems

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats should be watching 2020 candidates' spending and cash flow, not their polls, to understand "more about where this race is going," trail veteran Peter Hamby writes for Vanity Fair.

Where it stands: In response to the big question of who can scale up for Super Tuesday, Bloomberg is spending the most digital and network ad money on Super Tuesday and the Rest Belt — not on early primary states, like the rest of his Democratic competitors.