Donald Trump’s first official general election ad began running today on television stations in the battleground states of Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In the 30-second spot, an announcer — not Trump himself — blasts the "rigged" system in "Hillary Clinton's America." It ends with a call to "Make America Safe Again," the same theme as the first night of the Republican National Convention last month. The ad will run for 10 days, through Aug. 29th.
The Trump campaign is spending at $4.8 million on media buys in the four states, including $900,000 on cable expenditures. Broadcast placements in Florida cost $1.3 million, $790,000 in Pennsylvania, $775,000 in North Carolina and $675,000 in Ohio, according to Politico. Previous reports listed Virginia and Nevada as possible markets for the ad, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Trump campaign had requested ad rates in Georgia.
It’s a tiny expenditure compared to campaign spending so far. Trump surrogates and supporters have spent $8.2 million, but the Clinton campaign has been flooding the airwaves with $52.3 million in TV ads. Clinton supporters have spent an additional $37.1 million. Even the third-party campaigns have been outspending Trump, who had previously insisted his constant media coverage was enough to win votes.
The new spot is typical political fare, and a far cry from the signature bombast Trump displays on the campaign trail, part of a larger shift in strategy for the Trump campaign. Earlier this week, the Republican candidate appointed an executive at the far-right news site Breitbart as his chief executive and promoted his pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager. A renewed focus on polls and what they actually say, coupled with an actual apology from the candidate on Thursday, could signal that Trump is preparing to heed at least some advice from the Republican establishment. They have been urging him to become less combative and moderate his more controversial stances in an effort to widen his appeal beyond his narrow base.
In a conference call on Tuesday with 50 Republican members of Congress, Trump assured them his campaign would ramp up ad spending after Sept. 1. That will be a boon to local media outlets, who usually bank on the lucrative election season to fill their coffers. Political ad spending is down 60% from 2012, due to Trump’s frugality and a long Democratic primary, which typically features smaller ad buys than the general election fight.