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Data: Advertising Analytics; Note: Spending is for the weeks of July 7 to July 28, data as of July 15; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Joe Biden is outspending President Trump this month with big TV ad buys in traditional swing states, as Trump focuses on digital ads to shore up his base in what should be Republican strongholds

By the numbers: Biden and affiliated Democrats have outspent Republicans by $4 million in Michigan, $3.5 million in Pennsylvania, $2 million in Arizona and $700,000 in Wisconsin, according to data provided to Axios by Advertising Analytics through July 28.

  • Trump is widely outspending Biden, albeit on a smaller scale, on digital — most notably in Texas (which last voted for a Democratic president in 1976) and Georgia (where Trump won handily in 2016).

Why it matters: The president's allies once boasted of his prospects to expand the 2020 map into places like Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico.

  • Trump's handling of the coronavirus and race relations has weakened him nationally, and polls arguably give Biden the rationale to stretch the map for his own party.

The big picture: At least right now, neither candidate is pursuing a particularly aggressive offensive strategy.

  • Biden is playing it safe, focused on nailing down the places where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by a hair, rather than swinging for the fences.
  • Meanwhile, Trump's spending suggests a defensive crouch that aims to hold the base and keep Biden voters home rather than win new converts.

Yes, but: Biden's play-it-safe strategy could change dramatically in the fall, but the campaign is holding its cards close to its chest.

  • While Republicans have already booked $145 million in post-Labor Day TV ads in 11 states, the Biden campaign has yet to place its autumn buys — an approach that avoids telegraphing its strategy, but at some cost.

The bottom line: Biden is reinforcing a single public message in traditional battleground states — that Trump isn't fit to lead. Trump is broadcasting on different frequencies, with diffuse messages.

The messaging

An analysis of this month's spending shows Biden and allied Democratic groups are focusing on broad, anti-Trump TV attack ads in key battleground states.

  • Most of Biden's messaging has focused on Trump's lack of leadership. He's offering a contrast and pledging to bring the country together.
  • Meanwhile, the Trump campaign continues to play by its own rules, targeting vigilant supporters online with divisive topics like criminal justice reform, immigration and fake news.
Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

What's next: A three-week snapshot before the nominating conventions may offer important clues on the campaign's geographical theories of the race, but it doesn't necessarily predict where the campaigns will fight it out after Labor Day.

  • Trump appears to be using Facebook buys to do some management now, biding his time on big TV buys until he can see where the numbers are moving on the economy and COVID-19.
  • Trump's strategy may change after independent expenditure campaigns spend the summer softening up Biden.
  • Biden's current strategy is aimed at a win, not a landslide.
Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Go deeper

Poll: Hispanic vote key as Trump leads Biden in close Texas race

Biden in Houston in March. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Getty Images

President Trump leads Joe Biden 47% to 43% in Texas with just over a week until Election Day, according to the latest New York Times/Siena College poll.

Why it matters: Demographic changes and a wave of enthusiasm have some convinced that Texas could back a Democrat for president for the first time since 1976. But Biden's lagging support among Hispanic voters in the NYT/Siena poll could prove fatal to his chances of winning the state's 38 electoral votes.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 26, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Trump reaches for oil lifeline

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's campaign is making energy policy a prominent part of its closing swing state attacks against Joe Biden — especially in Pennsylvania, a state critical to Trump's reelection effort where he's trailing in the polls.

Driving the news: Trump's efforts include a new ad in Pennsylvania alleging that his Democratic presidential rival would crush the state's gas industry, and his campaign has aggressively deployed surrogates talking about energy in recent days.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Oct 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump doesn't have a second-term economic plan

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump has not laid out an economic agenda for his second term, despite the election being just eight days away.

Why it matters: This is unprecedented in modern presidential campaigns, and makes it harder for undecided voters to make an informed choice.

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