Biden builds early advertising edge as Trump spends millions on legal fees

Joe Biden holds a big edge on the airwaves over Donald Trump in the opening weeks of their general election matchup. The president and his allies nearly tripled his rival’s network in ad spending over the past month and a half while Trump has had to devote millions of campaign funds to legal expenses.

From March 6 – the day after Super Tuesday when Trump effectively secured the 2024 GOP presidential nomination – through Sunday, Biden’s campaign and other Democratic advertisers spent $27.2 million on advertising for the presidential race, while the Trump campaign and GOP advertisers spent about $9.3 million, according to AdImpact data.

The Biden campaign’s ad spending has included millions in key battleground states such as Michigan ($4.1 million), Pennsylvania ($3.9 million), Arizona ($2.5 million), Wisconsin ($2.2 million) and Georgia ($2.2 million). The Biden network has used its plentiful airtime to promote the administration’s first-term record and to slam Trump, focusing on key issues such as the cost of living and abortion rights.

For example, Biden’s campaign has spent over half a million dollars in just the past 10 days airing a new ad in Arizona, seizing on the high-profile fight over abortion rights there. “Because of Donald Trump, millions of women lost the fundamental freedom to control their own bodies. And now women’s lives are in danger because of that. The question is, if Donald Trump gets back in power, what freedom will you lose next?,” the ad says.

Meanwhile, a pro-Trump super PAC, MAGA Inc., recently ramped up its advertising, booking over $1 million worth of airtime in Pennsylvania to coincide with Biden’s recent campaign swing through the state last week.

“Biden’s open border puts us all at risk by releasing criminal illegals into our communities,” the MAGA Inc. spot says. Immigration and crime have been a key point of emphasis in Trump campaign messaging throughout his 2024 bid.

Trump has also benefited since Super Tuesday from a nearly $3 million anti-Biden campaign from outside groups aligned with the oil and gas industries, which have been running ads in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, criticizing California fuel standards defended by the Biden administration.

But despite these signs of activity, Trump’s network has been significantly outspent on the airwaves by Biden since becoming the presumptive nominee.

Trump has also been forced off the campaign trail with the beginning of his criminal hush money trial in New York.

Biden spent three days in Pennsylvania last week, meeting union voters, rallying with the Kennedys and slamming his predecessor’s economic policies. At the same time, Trump was in court in New York, and the lone campaign event he had set for last week, a Saturday rally in North Carolina, was postponed due to bad weather.

The latest round of Federal Election Commission filings further show how Biden’s fundraising edge is enabling his advertising advantage.

Entering April, Biden’s campaign reported $85.5 million in cash on hand, nearly doubling Trump’s war chest of $45.1 million. A similar disparity exists between the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, both poised to play key supporting roles in the election – the DNC reported $45.2 million on hand at March 31, while the RNC reported about $21.6 million.

Trump’s mounting legal expenses are exacerbating the gap. The former president’s constellation of political committees has had to direct millions of dollars toward legal costs as several cases against the former president proceed; in March alone, a leadership PAC fronting most of Trump’s legal fees spent about $3.7 million on legal-related expenses – nearly $3 out of every $4 it collected.

That leadership PAC, Save America, has spent more than $70 million on legal expenses since the start of 2021, FEC records show, a massive drain on funds that could otherwise be spent on efforts such as large ad campaigns.

Still, polls continue to show a margin-of-error race between Biden and Trump. CNN’s latest Poll of Polls average finds no clear leader, with each taking an average of 47% support among the potential electorate. That finding is effectively unchanged from averages from earlier this year.

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