There are two weeks to go until the US heads to the polls to choose their next president and Donald Trump has unleashed a last-minute blitz of advertising in battleground states. Hillary Clinton has a 5.8% lead in the average of national polls and, given the scandal surrounding Trump's campaign in recent weeks, what could The Donald possibly say to close the gap by Nov. 8?
Hillary Clinton has made it through the three tent pole moments of any presidential bid—the vice presidential nominations, the conventions and the debates—relatively unscathed. Her opponent, on the other hand, has faced a relentless onslaught of evidence accusing him of having a negative and predatory attitude toward women.
Given the momentum of the campaign, the fact that Clinton leads comfortably in the majority of the 11 most important swing states and the assertion by polling guru Nate Silver that Trump has only a "one-in-seven chance of winning," it's tempting to think that the contest is over.
But Silver has also cautioned against being complacent about the race, citing a "still-high number of undecided voters," the large number of swing states and the fact that "you'd expect a candidate with a 1-in-7 chance to win about one presidential election every 28 years."
Trump has certainly not thrown in the towel.
According to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, Trump has $40 million worth of advertising booked still to run and on Oct. 19, his campaign stated the intention to book another $30 million before the election.
If this turns out to be true (a big "if" given his tendency to be liberal with the truth), it means that Trump will have a higher adspend than Clinton and her supporters in the final weeks of the campaign.
This is significant because while Trump has been consistently outspent thus far—75% of TV adspend has come from Clinton's campaign and supporters—there’s plenty of research to suggest that the final ads of the election are the most important as the effects of political advertising tend to be short-lived.
A review of the advertising that Trump is running, below, provides further ammunition for the argument that it's still too early to write off the Republican candidate.
Trump's campaign narrative is simple, clear, consistent and therefore persuasive. In each of his advertisements, some or all of the following story is told: America is under threat, the economy isn't working for the middle class and Hillary Clinton is incapable of changing the course of the country.
In the first spot [0:00], the threats identified are external—Iran, North Korea and ISIS—and Clinton's recent health scare is referenced as a way of positioning her as incapable of responding.
In the second ad [0:30], the featured threat is internal; viewers are warned of the supposed dangers posed by illegal immigrants and Clinton's border policy is attacked as likely to perpetuate the problem.
In the third [1:00], we are treated to Trump's plans for the economy, but not before a reminder of the damage a Clinton administration might do to middle-class families' finances.
And in the fourth and final ad of the reel [1:30], we see Clinton's email saga positioned as evidence that the nation isn't safe in her hands.
So while it's true that Trump is well behind in the polls, his timely, hefty and well-executed advertising campaign means that it's still too early to begin the Clinton coronation.
—Benedict Pringle is the founder of politicaladvertising.co.uk