Feb 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

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.

For context, experts project that more than $10 billion will be spent on political ads this election season, with more than $3 billion toward the presidential primary specifically.

  • In other words, roughly one-tenth of the total money that will be spent on presidential political ads has already been spent with eight months to go until Election Day.

By the numbers: To no surprise, Democrats have outspent Republicans more than 9-to-1 due to a highly competitive primary contest and because there are two billionaires spending an unprecedented amount on ads.

  • So far, Democrats have spent a whopping $969 million on ads, compared to $67.9 million by Republicans.
  • Bloomberg has spent more than $538 million to date, per Ad Analytics, while Tom Steyer has spent more than $186 million. All other candidates have spent less than $50 million each.

Startling stat: One of the biggest shifts between 2016 and 2020 has been the increase in money invested in Super Tuesday states — mostly as a result of Bloomberg's unorthodox campaign strategy.

  • In total, about $247 million has been spent in Super Tuesday states, up from only $30 million in 2016.

Be smart ... Ad Analytics credits this level of extraordinary spend to three factors:

  1. Better analytics from tech companies, which have now created dashboards and libraries that track political ad spending.
  2. Mike Bloomberg's war chest, which has surpassed more than $500 million in ad spending.
  3. Bernie Sanders' ability to drive grassroots donations, often through online platforms like ActBlue.

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Sanders projected to win California Democratic primary

Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane O'Meara Sanders walk onstage during his campaign rally at the Los Angeles Convention Center on March 1, 2020. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders is projected to win the California Democratic primary, the crown jewel of Super Tuesday with 415 delegates at stake, according to AP.

The big picture: Sanders was heavily favored to win California, despite losing in the 2016 primary to Hillary Clinton by about 7 points. Super Tuesday was largely dominated up until the California results by Joe Biden, who won sweeping victories across the South.

Bloomberg's historic bust

Mike Bloomberg waves to supporters in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Super Tuesday. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Never in American history has a presidential candidate spent more to get less than Mike Bloomberg, making his buy-a-nomination bid a big bust. 

Why it matters: Bloomberg spent $600 million to win as many states as every American who chose not to run: zero. (He has American Samoa to show for it.)

Tom Steyer drops out of 2020 presidential race

Tom Steyer. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Billionaire Tom Steyer ended his 2020 presidential campaign on Saturday after struggling to gain traction in early state primaries, including a third-place South Carolina finish that isn't expected to earn delegates.

The big picture: Steyer, a late entrant to the race, vowed to spend $100 million of his own money on the campaign — a move that upset some grassroots Democrats.