Friday, November 20, 2015

Republicans Wasting Millions Of Dollars On Useless, Perhaps Counterproductive, TV Ads-- Poor Jeb


A few cycles ago the Blue America PAC used to spend money on TV and radio ads. It didn't take us long to figure what a useless scam that kind of advertising is, especially considering that the TV stations rarely even play the full ads they're charging so much for. But that isn't the only reason why we've come to the conclusion they're a colossal waste of our contributors' money and why we stopped making them years ago and instead have found more effective ways to support our candidates. Reporting yesterday for, ironically ABC-News, Matthew Dowd feels that the Republican candidates are wasting millions of dollars on TV and radio advertising right now, from which no one benefits but the crooked consultants ripping off the idiot candidates.
I have asserted many times that advertising in a presidential campaign is at best minimally effective. In fact, more money is wasted on ads than any other part of a campaign over the last 25 years. Millions and millions have been spent in presidential races without any demonstrable effect. It is an old tactic that no longer works well (or efficiently) in today's world of campaigns, but consultants continue to push this strategy either because they are trapped in old ways or have a vested financial interest.

There is good news: money may be wasted by presidential campaigns on advertising, but underfunded and more efficient campaigns can still win. Money is no longer as important in determining victory as it was in the past. The barrier to communication is as low as ever. You can communicate with thousands of people for free sitting at your desk through the touch of a computer keystroke. Message delivery is no longer dependent on paid advertising, and this democratizes communication more and more. This is a healthy development in our body politic.

Now let's get back to the GOP race and examine the ad spending and its effectiveness on getting voters to support candidates. I would argue that advertising has done more to eliminate "bad" candidates than it has helped. And let's look at ad spending specifically in the key early states of Iowa and New Hampshire which will help determine who the GOP nominee is for president. This analysis utilizes data on ad buys (both candidate and affiliated Super PACs) compiled by one of the best companies in the business, Kantar Media CMG.

Governors Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and Bobby Jindal spent millions on ads and are already out of the race for president. Super PACs couldn't save them.

Governor Kasich will have spent nearly $8 million on ads by the end of November and he's polling in single digits in New Hampshire and Iowa.

Ben Carson and Donald Trump have spent very little on advertising-- in some places none-- and lead the polls in nearly every state including Iowa and New Hampshire.

The most troubling signs of this are for Jeb Bush. By the end of November, he will have spent roughly $19 million in New Hampshire and Iowa, and Jeb is polling in single digits in both states. It seems that no matter how much he has spent, the consumers (voters) are not buying the product (Bush). So much for shock and awe.

So what does all this tell us?

Earned media (parlance for getting free media on news platforms) is the most powerful mode of communicating with voters. And to that end the four debates thus far have had more impact on this race than the millions spent on advertising. These debates caused Walker, Perry, and Jindal to drop out. They have caused Carly Fiorina to rise and fall. They have caused Bush to drift down from the upper teens to single digits of support. They have helped coaelesce Trump's support at about a quarter of voters. And they have helped Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz rise.

Candidates would be better off spending less time on raising money and more time on preparing a vision and a compelling message to deliver to the public. They would be much better positioned if they spent time and resources on preparing for debates and not on fundraisers.

The best campaigns will use advertising to reinforce a message delivered at a debate or in the press or through voter visits, and not as away to correct some fundamental flaws a candidate is carrying with them. As observers of this process and those interested in the outcome, pay attention to who seizes the moments, not fundraising totals.

Jeb Bush and his highly coordinated-- illegally so, but no one in a position to do anything about it seems to care-- SuperPAC have spent at least $20 million on TV ads so far this cycle of the $32,042,855 they've spent in total, the most of any campaign. And the more Jeb spent the more his polling dropped, not just in terms of whether he is anyone's first choice, but even if Republican voters could stand him and his message. The more ads they bought, the more the campaign collapsed and the more Jeb himself as a political figure diminished. The SuperPAC spending was all in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and the campaign itself threw in another half million, also in those 3 early states. Last year, before there was any spending, Bush was pretty consistently polling in double digits in Iowa and always among the top 2 or 3 candidates. Last April a Republican Vox Populi poll, for example lined up like this:
Mike Huckabee- 20%
Paul Ryan 19%
Jeb Bush 18%
Ted Cruz 9%
Marco Rubio 9%
Rand Paul 8%
Chris Christie 7%
Scott Walker 6%
A year later, Bush was still a viable candidate, although cracks in his top tier status were already beginning to surface. In late April of this year PPP found a pretty different field but with Scott Walker as king of the hill in Iowa.
Scott Walker- 23%
Marco Rubio- 13%
Jeb Bush- 12%
Mike Huckabee- 10%
Rand Paul- 10%
Ted Cruz- 8%
Ben Carson- 7%
By August Jeb had vanished from the top ranks and double digits had vanished for him as well, His Iowa polling average is now 6.3%, putting him in a very distant 5th place, ahead of Carly Fiorina, but nowhere near the frontrunners. The most recent polling-- from Bloomberg and not in the RealClearPolitics polling average-- and after millions and millions of dollars in TV ad buys shows him struggling with just 6% in Iowa:
Trump- 24%
Carson- 20%
Rubio- 12%
Cruz- 9%
Jeb- 6%
Similar pattern in New Hampshire-- double digits last year with 15% and in 2nd place, and then the descent into single digits after a few polls early this summer showed him in first place. By late summer, though, it was all falling apart as Trump just destroyed him. The RealClearPolitics average for New Hampshire shows him with 7.8%, in 5th place, and just a fraction of a percent against Kasich. The most recent WBUR poll is even more dismal. His unfavorables are at 47% to just 36% favorable and the top candidates rank like this:
Trump- 22%, up 4 points since Nov 1
Carson- 11%, down 4 points
Rubio- 11%, up 2 points
Cruz- 8%, up 2 points
Jeb- 7%, flat since Nov 1, down a point since mid-Sept.
If he was hoping for salvation in South Carolina, the other state he's spending a bundle in, forget it. He's fallen from an early fave to a single-digit also-ran. Last May he polled 22%, ahead of runner-up Chris Chistie by 12 points. By August of this year, he was in single digit territory and it's been all downhill. The most recent Monmouth University poll of South Carolina Republicans this month shows him with 7% in 5th place:
Carson- 28%, up 13 points since August
Trump- 27%, down 3 points

Rubio- 11%, up 5 points
Cruz- 9%, up 4 points
Jeb- 7%, down 2 points
So up against Bush's $19.9 million in TV ads in these three states (including $2 million this week alone), what have the other campaigns spent? Rubio's Conservative Solutions SuperPAC laid out $8.4 million. Kasich went all in-- almost entirely in New Hampshire with $7.3 million-- and has found himself struggling alongside Jeb in the single digits and barely a candidate anyone takes seriously. Christie has also blown his entire wad in New Hampshire-- $5.7 million and is seeing virtually no return. He's not even a second tier candidate for all that spending, the WBUR poll this month showing him in 7th place with 6% in his "must win" state. Jindal wasted $3.3 before dropping out. Meanwhile Trump has spent nothing and Carson has spent around $1.5 million and they;'re number one and two in each of the early states and nationally. Funny enough, Carson's campaign spent $214,000 this week, just as his campaign started getting into free-fall mode. All that "earned" (free) media the Trump clown show gets everywhere trumps all the millions the rest of the circus is spending.

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