March 13, 2020
Just weeks ago, it looked as if Sanders’ formidable digital fundraising operation would provide him with an insurmountable resource advantage and the ability to compete on the airwaves in states that only self-funding billionaires could access. However, almost overnight, Biden’s victory in South Carolina launched his fundraising and national polling averages into overdrive. He could suddenly compete with Sanders’ resources and he utilized his influx of cash to air ads in key states touting his electability and relationship with Barack Obama. During the week of February 18th Sanders outspent Biden by $4.8M. Two weeks later, he was only ahead by only $1M. Sanders lead in reservations for the week of March 10th extends back to $2M, though Biden has time to reserve more ads and close this gap.
Primary Contest Spend Analysis
Big Tuesday States
The two candidates have spent a cumulative $5M on “Big Tuesday” with Sanders holding a $700k advantage. Biden, however, has small spending advantages in both Missouri and Mississippi, and is only a few thousand dollars behind Sanders in the key state of Michigan. Sanders remains unopposed on the air in Washington, North Dakota, and Iowa.
March 17th States
For the next round of primaries on March 17th, Biden and Sanders have already spent a combined $15.6M in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and Arizona. Sanders currently has a overall spending advantage in these states of $3M. In Florida, the biggest prize by far, Bernie has outspent Biden by about $500k. Polling confirms that this is an extremely strong state for Biden and he could win a large delegate advantage. Illinois and Ohio are fairly even, with Sanders holding small advantages in both. As of yet, Sanders is unopposed on the airwaves in Arizona.
Cumulatively in 2020, more than 72% of Biden’s ads have mentioned or shown President Obama on screen. In March, more than 90% of Biden’s ad airings refer to him. Biden is also on air right now with the creative “Super Tuesday” that shows a montage of states being called for him on Super Tuesday. The ad then pivots to defending Biden from attacks from Sanders on social security. On Super Tuesday, we saw him roll out an ad in Minnesota highlighting his endorsement from Amy Klobuchar, a strategy that we could see replicated as he begins to amass an impressive set of endorsements. Sanders’ ads are more varied. “Expand Benefits” hits Biden’s previous comments on social security, “The Future Belongs to Us” runs through Sanders’ policy priorities, and “Call to Action” is entirely footage of Obama speaking positively about Bernie.
The “moderate” lane voters have consolidated behind Biden following the dropouts and subsequent endorsements of Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bloomberg. Biden’s victory in South Carolina fueled a massive Super Tuesday win, and the momentum shows no sign of abating soon. Biden has closed the gap with Sanders and run up a large national polling advantage, even with a severe resource gap. Now that this gap is closing, Biden seems to be well positioned to expand his coalition and capitalize on newfound voter enthusiasm and support.