TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A pandemic and presidential politics have made 2020 an unpredictable year in Florida, but there’s one thing the Sunshine State can count on this fall: A record- breaking deluge of political ads is coming.
Florida, the battleground state likely to make or break President Donald Trump’s reelection chances, will be awash in television ads as part of a frantic effort to win the state’s 29 electoral votes. The $137 million spent so far in Florida tops second-place Pennsylvania, which has seen $101 million in ad spending, and already has surpassed the total of $133 million spent in Florida in 2016.
As the nation’s largest swing state, Florida has long been a target for national candidates and committees, but because Trump’s path to victory does not exist without Florida, that dynamic has been intensified this year as he battles former vice president Joe Biden.
“Trump can’t win without Florida, Florida, Florida,” said Florida Democratic ad maker Kevin Cate. “It’s the oldest swing state on the map with a lot more electoral votes, so it’s no shock both campaigns are dumping wheelbarrows of money on local TV to reach those high-propensity eyeballs.”
“If Biden pulls off a win here, you can queue up the lady with Trump’s waistline to start singing, because it’s over,” he added.
The overwhelming majority of the ads are aimed primarily at the Orlando ($43 million) and Tampa ($40.2 million) media markets. Those two markets collectively include an 18-county region known as the I-4 Corridor. That critical slice of national political real estate is targeted each presidential election cycle because it is home to a large swath of swing voters. Headed into election day on 2016, for instance, the region had 1.5 million voters with no major party affiliation.
Biden’s campaign earlier this month announced a massive $280 million television and digital buy across 15 battleground states. The analysis shows that the Biden campaign plans to spend more than $39 million between now and Election Day.
But viewers in Florida are much more likely to see ads from the Trump campaign, which has booked nearly $60 million worth of ad time. The Trump campaign total includes a new wave of ads launched this month that rip into Biden.
“Florida is the biggest prize in electoral votes not preordained as are California and New York,” said veteran Republican consultant David Johnson. “Having the largest numbers of swing voters and voters to turnout in the most expensive markets in America makes for a very Merry Christmas bonus for television station managers.”
A new wave of ads from the Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund, the gun control group founded by former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, announced on Tuesday that it would help fund $4 million in TV ads and $2 million in digital ads focused on the I-4 Corridor.
The group is partnering with Democratic super PAC Priorities USA to fund the Tampa and Orlando market buys.
It’s a continuation of Bloomberg’s outsized role in Florida politics during the 2020 election cycle.
During his own brief bid for president, Bloomberg put a major effort into Florida, using $50 million from his personal wealth to buy TV ads.
Bloomberg hoped to boost his chances in Florida at a time when other campaigns could not yet afford to go on TV, an effort that initially appeared to be working as Bloomberg sprouted offices across the state and tried to flip supporters from Biden, who was long seen as the Florida frontrunner.
Bloomberg’s huge Florida investments made big political waves, but they were short-lived. He dropped out of the race two weeks before Florida’s March 17 primary after a disappointing Super Tuesday finish.