2020 presidential race pushes past $1 billion mark as advertising wars intensify

Spending in the contest between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden has barreled past the $1 billion mark as Trump invested tens of millions of dollars in advertising this summer to bolster his re-election prospects.

Spending in the contest between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden has barreled past the $1 billion mark as Trump invested tens of millions of dollars in advertising this summer to bolster his re-election prospects.

In all, spending by Trump and affiliated party committees has topped $900 million since 2017, according to reports filed in recent days with federal regulators. The reports show Trump's campaign went on a spending spree, plowing more than $50 million into his reelection effort in June -- the most it has spent in a single month. More than $8 out of every $10 went to advertising.

And the race for the White House is about to get more costly.

Biden, whose campaign spent a little more than $36 million in June, recently announced a $15 million ad campaign in six battleground states and nationally on news and sports channels. Trump already has reserved $147 million in advertising time for the fall battle, with the biggest spending coming between September 29 and Election Day, according to data from Kantar's Campaign Media Analysis Group.

The surge comes as the President works to halt his tumble in the polls. A CNN poll of polls released this week found Biden leading Trump by a 12-point margin nationally. And a new survey of voters in the traditional Republican stronghold of Texas shows the two men locked in a tight race.

Dark advertising

The President's advertising has taken an ominous tone in recent weeks as the race has become more competitive and he pushes a hardline law-and-order message from the White House.

Trump this week announced he was sending federal officers to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, following the deployment of federal agents to Portland, Oregon, to rein in protests there. Local officials have strenuously objected to the deployments amid reports of federal agents without badges snatching protesters off the streets and taking them away in unmarked vehicles. There have been protests focused on racism and police brutality across the country following the May death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police officer, but nightly protests in Portland have lasted for weeks.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who was tear gassed in his city early Thursday morning, has decried the tactics of federal agents as "completely unconstitutional."

Trump has said the federal presence in American cities is needed to curb "heinous crimes of violence. And the President's campaign advertising has echoed his dark themes.

The TV ad Trump's campaign has run most often -- more than 30,000 times this month alone -- is dubbed "Defund the Police" and simulates an unanswered 911 call that informs the caller that the wait time for help is "five days." It ends with the message: "You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America."

In another Trump spot, that has aired more than 14,000 times this month, a narrator warns of a "radical left-wing mob" that wants to take over American cities and falsely claims that Biden wants to strip money from the police. It shows street clashes with law enforcement and protesters bearing "Defund the police" signs.

On Thursday, Biden responded to Trump's law-and-order messaging with a 30-second spot of his own. Called "Crossroads," it features images of authorities forcibly dispersing peaceful protesters outside the White House last month.

"Right now, we're at a crossroads," a narrator intones in the ad. "We've seen what can happen when we elect a leader determined to divide us."

But most of Biden's ads focus on another issue: the coronavirus pandemic that has upended normal life, killed tens of thousands of Americans and left millions without jobs. Virtually all of the 12,600 spots run by the Biden campaign in July have referenced the coronavirus, CMAG data show.

Liam Donovan, a Republican consultant, said the law-and-order message may resonate with Trump's hard-core base, but is not likely to change the trajectory of the contest. "The thing that's beating him is the virus," he said of Trump.

"Anything the President can do to drive down Biden's favorables is a good thing," Donovan added. "But having these dark, brooding scenes about what it would look like under Joe Biden is just bizarre when this is stuff that's happening under Trump."

Record spending

Total spending since the start of 2017 by Trump's campaign, the Republican National Committee and two joint fundraising committees topped $980 million through June -- a record sum at this point in a presidential campaign that reflects Trump's early jump on fundraising. He launched his reelection campaign the day he was sworn into office in 2017.

This week, the Trump stepped up his personal involvement in online fundraising, and his reelection effort announced a $25 million haul in just two days. About $20 million came in through the campaign's first virtual fundraiser; another $5 million was raised at a high-dollar "roundtable" with Trump staged at the President's hotel in Washington, DC.

The events benefited Trump Victory, his joint fundraising committee with the RNC and about two dozen state party committees.

Biden, who has spent $165 million through his campaign committee since he entered the presidential contest, also raises money jointly with the Democratic National Committee and state parties.

This week, he moved to expand that high-dollar fundraising effort. A Biden agreement announced Monday with the DNC and 37 state parties now allows individual donors to contribute up to $730,600 apiece to the Biden campaign effort.

Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor, said both candidates will have ample resources to churn out television commercials in the months ahead. But in a race featuring two well-known combatants, "the relative effectiveness of those ads is greatly diminished."

"You already know how you feel about Donald Trump," he said. "And I think a lot of people know how they feel about Joe Biden."

CNN's Arlette Saenz and Sarah Mucha contributed to this report.

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