Written by Sydney Beckham and Maddie Ebner

With the first Republican Presidential primary in 140 days, former President Donald Trump continues to dominate national polls. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is second in the polls but on a decline, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy is third and steadily moving up. Despite a large pool of candidates, there is still a 38 point gap between Trump and the next closest candidate. Although the former President has received multiple indictments, it has seemingly not affected his candidacy to this point. While the 2024 election cycle heats up, there’s already been an increase in ad money both supporting and opposing Trump. Interestingly, most of the anti-Trump ad spending has been placed by Republican advertisers. 

The Trump-affiliated PAC, MAGA Inc., started spending in March and has spent a total $22.8M to date. Currently, the PAC is the second highest Presidential advertiser by spend and total reservations behind Senator Tim Scott’s PAC, Trust in the Mission ($37M). The Trump campaign has only spent $1.3M so far. In 2019, the Trump campaign had spent $4.5M by August. Through the end of August 2019, advertisers had placed $14.2M in support of Trump and $8.5M opposing Trump. Through the end of August 2023, there has been $25M in pro-Trump spending (with 91% coming from MAGA Inc.) and $10.7M in anti-Trump spending. 

a bar chart showing  anti-Trump ad spending

While there is only a slight increase in ad spending opposing Trump this Cycle, 97% has been placed by Republican groups. Last Presidential cycle, anti-Trump spending by Republicans was almost non-existent. 

Between June and July of this year, anti-Trump ad spending by Republicans increased by over 420%. Spending against the former President by Republican advertisers rose to just over $5M in July, after spending under $1M in June. Out of nine GOP groups spending on anti-Trump advertisements, four groups have spent over $1M: Win it Back PAC, Defending Democracy Together, Americans for Prosperity Action, and Republican Accountability PAC. These groups have not endorsed another Republican candidate for President. 

a visual showing  anti-Trump ad spending across the year.

Republican group Win it Back PAC has run $6M in anti-Trump ads thus far, making them the highest spender against the former President. Their advertisements claim Republicans need to vote for a different candidate because if Trump wins the Republican nomination, he will lose in the general election.

Win it Back PAC is linked to Club for Growth Action, a conservative group which has spent millions backing Republican candidates in past elections, including Trump in his 2020 reelection bid. Club for Growth spent a combined $4M supporting Trump in 2020 and Trump-endorsed candidates in the 2022 Midterms. In July 2021, the group ran a Facebook ad campaign urging voters to “Never put ‘Never Trumpers’ into Congress”, indicating a continued support for the former President and his endorsements.

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Their recent advertising trends, however, have shifted into taking an anti-Trump approach. Their only Google video ad this year attacks Trump’s plans to cut social security and benefits by 23%. They also spent $12K on broadcast for the same ad. Their attacks on Trump and his policies are a shift away from their previous support of the former President. 

Another GOP group launching ads opposing Trump is Americans for Prosperity Action. Similar to Club for Growth, this prominent conservative group spends millions supporting Republican candidates each Cycle. This year marks the first time the group has ever spent in a Presidential primary and they are focused on attacking Trump. In total, they have spent $1.2M satellite and Facebook advertisements thus far. The Facebook ads highlight Trump’s unpopularity and suggest the GOP needs a nominee that will beat Joe Biden in 2024. One video from Americans for Prosperity Action’s Facebook campaign claims Trump has too much “baggage” and that the Republican party is being “weighed down.” 

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As Republican groups continue to attack Trump, a majority of GOP candidates and their affiliated PACs have generally strayed away from mentioning the former President. Ads supporting Mike Pence, Chris Christie, and Ron DeSantis have mentioned Trump. Pro-Pence group, Committed to America PAC, highlights Trump’s role in January 6th, while pro-Christie PAC, Tell it Like it is, mentions “drama, distractions, and lies” surrounding the former President. Never Back Down mentioned Trump for the first time in a TV ad which aired August 11th, highlighting Trump’s attacks towards Republican Governors Kim Reynolds (IA) and Chris Sununu (NH). Other candidates such as Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Doug Burgum have not mentioned Trump in their ads.

As election season approaches, Trump's current lead in national polling averages, despite anti-Trump ad spending, suggest the likelihood of a rematch against President Joe Biden is considerable. Should Trump successfully navigate the primaries and secure the RNC nomination, it is possible that Republican groups and candidates will abandon their anti-Trump advertising strategies and rally behind the former President to increase the party’s chances of regaining control of the White House.

Want to learn more about ad spending and messaging we've tracked so far in the 2024 Republican Presidential primary? Check out our report on GOP candidates' ad spending leading up to the first GOP Presidential primary debate here

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