A record total in campaign ad spending by a Democratic presidential campaign will flood Texas’ media markets this year as Democrats eye turning the 2018 “Blue Wave” into a riptide against President Donald Trump’s reelection hopes.
First reported by the Texas Tribune, the Joe Biden campaign says it has purchased $6 million in ad buys across the state ahead of the election — more than any other previous Democratic presidential campaign.
According to documents obtained by The Texan from Medium Buying — a political media buying company — the current Biden campaign ad buy in Texas is $4.3 million, which does not include digital.
The Biden campaign did not respond to request for comment.
Nick Everhart, president of Medium Buying, told The Texan, “The Biden campaign has not made a bigger play into Texas, due to the fact it’s an extremely expensive state to sustain a paid media air campaign.”
According to what’s on the books now, the Biden campaign has purchased ad space in eight different media markets across the state.
“Right now, they have too many other offensive pickup states where the cost to be on traditional media is a fraction of the cost [and] the chance for that investment to put electoral votes on the board is much higher,” Everhart added.
Ed Espinoza, executive director of Progress Texas, a non-profit progressive activism and media organization, told The Texan, “What’s most interesting is that the Biden’s campaign spending matches that of the Trump campaign’s in Texas.”
“I see it as a game of chicken — how much are you willing to spend in Texas and divert away from other states?”
Polling averages indicate the Democratic nominee is performing well. The RealClearPolitics (RCP) national average has Biden up nine points on Trump. Battleground states tell a similar tale, with RCP’s average showing Biden up 5.6 percent in Wisconsin, 3.5 percent in Florida, 6.2 percent in Michigan, and 6.3 in Pennsylvania.
Espinoza sees in these numbers slack for the Biden campaign which frees up capital that can be spent in Texas. “If you’re already running away in other states, then why not double down in Texas?”
Texas Republicans’ edge has narrowed some over the last few election cycles. Mitt Romney won the state by nearly 16 points and over 1.2 million votes. In 2016, Donald Trump’s margin of victory narrowed to nine points but exceeded Romney’s raw vote total by over 100,000.
Hillary Clinton in 2016, for comparison, far exceeded Barack Obama’s 2012 raw vote totals by nearly 570,000.
In the other most notable statewide federal race since 2012 — the 2018 Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke — turnout exceeded the 2012 presidential by five percent.
Regardless, voter turnout will likely be closer to that of 2016 than not, if not surpass it outright. The Democratic political machine resumed its 2018 activity fueled by O’Rourke’s candidacy ahead of the 2020 cycle and believes, not only that they’re within spitting distance of the president in the Lone Star State, but that the Texas House is within reach as well.
Republican Party of Texas Chairman Allen West told The Texan, “Vice President Biden’s message and ideological agenda do not resonate with Texans — we do not want to see our oil and gas industry decimated, we like our 2nd Amendment and a strong economy, and we will continue to advocate for the rule of law and order.”
Biden’s energy plan is of great interest to Texans due to the state’s heavy reliance on its oil and gas industry. Biden has detracted from his more progressive colleagues in the Democratic Party who are calling for an outright ban of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) and focused on a prospective prohibition of new and renewed drilling on federal lands. But even that plan is estimated to eliminate 120,000 Texas jobs — something Biden says will be made up for in federally-driven energy industry initiatives.
“No matter how much money Biden’s campaign seeks to spend in Texas, it will fail since it’s not connecting with Texans,” West added.
Everhart concluded with his assessment, saying, “While AZ, GA, and OH look like possible [Republican] to [Democratic] presidential flips that no one would have believed in January, TX turning blue still feels and looks like an uncatchable unicorn for Biden and the Democrats in 2020.”
When asked how he thinks the ad influx may affect down-ballot races, West maintained confidence in the Republican candidates throughout the state.
“The proof is that Biden has not been in Texas for quite some time and that shows me he’s not serious about this state,” West concluded.
Espinoza pointed to a “reverse coattails-effect with local races mobilizing the field troops” in a way the federal campaigns cannot. For historical context, he cited the same phenomenon as that which led to the GOP’s massive electoral gains both from the “Contract with America” and the Tea Party movement.
He sees this happening for Democrats contemporarily in each election since Trump took office, not only with the 2018 “Blue Wave” but the local elections in 2017 and 2019.
A $6 million commitment illustrates Democrats’ belief in added gains in Texas, but execution must follow.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.