The Corner

Politics & Policy

How Much Will a Wave of TV Ads Help Trump?

Donald Trump can only be helped by his decision to spend $2 million a week on television ads, right?

Billionaire Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he plans to spend at least $2 million a week on television advertising in the first three voting states, a move that would mark a massive departure for a candidate who has so far relied on free media to fuel his insurgent campaign.

Despite Trump’s typically ironclad confidence, he told reporters invited aboard his private jet Tuesday he didn’t want take anything for granted.

A deluge of pro-Trump ads could help . . . or it may simply turn into noise in these early states, where every commercial break is going to feature ads from the various campaigns and Super PACs. In fact, it’s not clear that running ads before the peak season does much good, either. Jeb Bush’s Super PAC spent $24 million earlier this year and saw absolutely no poll movement from them. Scott Walker’s Super PAC ran $7 million in television ads. One can argue that their troubles have more to do with the flaws of the candidates, but Mark McKinnon, former chief media strategist for George W. Bush, wonders if the era of television political advertising is coming to an end:

There’s just very little return on media dollars anymore in politics because people just don’t believe political advertising. They’re just demanding authenticity and something that they think is real, and they know that advertising is not real. So those are – you might as well just burn that money. It’d be a better investment.

How much is $2 million in commercials, compared to the value of being the most frequently covered, discussed, denounced, praised, and debated figure in the race in between the commercial breaks? In other words, when Trump is getting a fortune’s worth of earned media every single day, how much will $2 million a week in television ads matter?

The other open question is, since Trump has so thoroughly dominated the discussion of the presidential race, how many Republican-primary voters remain persuadable about him? In the last Quinnipiac poll, 63 percent of Republicans feel favorable about Trump, but 30 percent feel unfavorable. (A sign Jeb Bush should hang it up: 52 percent of Republicans feel unfavorably to him.) Just 6 percent have no opinion about Trump, the least of any candidate. How much can Trump win over his skeptics and critics, and are television ads really the tool most likely to do that?

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