As the Coronavirus epidemic sweeps the nation, advertisers are homing in on the panic and releasing ads focused on the virus and those it affects. However, most of these Coronavirus-specific ads have been from nonpresidential campaigns and special interest groups, such as the Alabama Nursing Home Association. For example, of the ads focusing on coronavirus from March 4th until April 7th, 61% have come from Senatorial, Congressional, and Gubernatorial races, while the remaining 39% originated from the Presidential race.
States such as Maine, Kentucky and West Virginia, all of which have highly contested races, are focusing on the virus and its impact on the states’ residents as a key issue during this time. Maine Senator Susan Collins’ previous four advertisements, totaling $197,836, have been about the pandemic, focusing on supporting small businesses, reducing the panic, and working to support local essential workers. Collins’ opponent, Sara Gideon, released a similar ad highlighting the coronavirus, spending more than $132,396. Similarly, in Kentucky, incumbent Mitch McConnell has spent $252,307 on his past two ads addressing the coronavirus; he is being outspent by his democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, who spent $264,875 on her previous two ads.
This trend of coronavirus-specific ads does extend to the Presidential race in specific state primaries, but the individual campaigns have not run virus-related ads nationwide. Rather, there has been an increase in Super PAC and interest group ads addressing the pandemic. Over the course of the past month, Priorities USA Action has spent more than $2.49 million dollars on ads targeting President Trump and his response to the pandemic the country faces. In contrast, the Biden Campaign has only spent $43,885 on general election advertisements addressing the coronavirus, but more than $375,000 has been spent by Unite the Country, Biden’s largest Super PAC.
Advertisements and campaigns will continue to address the coronavirus as long as it is an issue for the American public. We should expect most coronavirus specific ads to come from statewide elections (gubernatorial, senatorial, and congressional races) especially in highly contested races and states. In contrast, the majority of national ad coverage addressing the virus should be expected to come from Super PACs, such as Unite the Country or Priorities USA, rather than individual campaigns.
*Please note, all figures are current as of 9am on April 9, 2020.