Feb 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Democratic candidates lean on Obama in TV ads

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/ Getty Images

Former President Obama has refrained from endorsing any of the Democratic primary candidates, but that hasn't stopped a slew of the 2020 contenders from invoking the president's image in their campaign ads, Politico reports.

Why it matters: “It’s the perfect visual validation. Voters can recognize Barack Obama in a nano-second,” Eric Jaye, Democratic political consultant told Politico. “Obama might as well be on Mt. Rushmore for Democrats. It’s so powerful and instantaneous.”

The state of play: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, billionaires Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer have all aired ads depicting Obama.

  • Five new ads featuring Obama aired the week of the Iowa caucus in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, per Politico.
  • Most of the ads show Obama mentioning the candidates by name, while others just flash a photo of the 44th president.
  • Biden was the first candidate to highlight his relationship with Obama. One ad uses audio from when Obama awarded Biden the Medal of Freedom.
  • Bloomberg paid more than $1.2 million to have his Obama TV ad air in over 70 markets — more than any other candidate, Politico notes.

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As 2020 Democrats launch ads for Nevada, Bloomberg homes in on Trump

Bloomberg rallies in Nashville, Tenn. on Feb. 12. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg will release three nationwide TV ads on Tuesday morning that are laser-focused on one thing: beating President Trump, whom one ad describes as "the biggest bully of all."

The big picture: 2020 Democrats face their next electoral test on Saturday in Nevada, a state with a critical Hispanic constituency. Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are releasing Spanish-language ads in the state, the New York Times and NBC News report.

Sanders pondered a primary challenge against Obama in 2012

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders pondered a primary challenge against former President Obama in 2012, forcing then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to talk him down, reports The Atlantic.

Why it matters: While Obama hasn't endorsed a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, he cautioned last year that "the average American doesn't think that we have to completely tear down the system and remake it" — a veiled jab at the Vermont senator, the current front-runner.

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.