Biden campaign goes on offense, looks to expand electoral map with $280 million general election ad buy

$220 million of the total investment will be spent on TV ads airing in 15 states

August 5, 2020, 5:30 AM

With less than three months until Election Day, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign announced its general election paid media strategy, going on “offense” and seeking to draw a contrast with President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign on multiple fronts with a $280 million television and digital ad buy set to begin Sept. 1.

"We know that this race, this election is a clear referendum on Donald Trump and his failed leadership on COVID and also on the economy," Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said on a call with reporters Tuesday night.

"We are very focused on ensuring we get 270, and that we create as many pathways to get 270 as possible, and we keep as many states on the map as long as possible. And we're really building a strategy that allows for that extended map, and to be on offense."

At least $220 million of the total investment, according to the campaign, will be reserved for TV ads throughout the fall airing in 15 states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado, Virginia, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio and Texas.

PHOTO: (FILES) In this file photo taken on July 28, 2020 US Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden smiles as he speaks during a campaign event at the William "Hicks" Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Delaware.
(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 28, 2020 US Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden smiles as he speaks during a campaign event at the William "Hicks" Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Delaware. - Donald Trump's challenger in the US election, Joe Biden, is soon to announce his vice presidential pick.
Andrew Caballero-reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The campaign will also place a "significant" focus on running national ads, including during events that draw a significant amount of viewers, including professional sports, national broadcast news and presidential and vice-presidential debates.

The campaign touted the massive investment as a sharp contrast to Trump's own fall advertising campaign, which focuses on defending friendly territory for the president rather than the electoral map expansion the campaign once previewed.

The Trump campaign recently announced $148 million television investments starting in September, airing in 11 states Trump won or narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, which followed a pause on its advertising after Bill Stepien was tapped to replace Brad Parscale as Trump's campaign manager.

"We've seen in their reset on their strategy and on their advertising in a smaller footprint of states. That's not our approach. Our approach is to go on offense, to have a broad strategy across all platforms and channels to reach voters where they are," Dillon told reporters.

The campaign argued that in addition to the contrast in strategy, the content of the ads will also show a stark divide between the candidates.

Mike Donilon, a senior advisor for the Biden campaign, previewed that Biden will be the messenger in a large portion of their ads, set to focus on Trump's lack of leadership amid the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn, and Biden's plans to help the country recover.

"We think it's important for people to see him and hear him because it goes to the issue of leadership and the kind of reassuring presence and stable leadership ... which we believe the public sees in Joe Biden," Donilon said.

"Conversely, what they see in Donald Trump is a kind of chaotic approach, one that refuses to take responsibility, one that continues to refuse to accept the crisis at hand, and the overriding issues facing the country," he continued.

The ad campaign also includes specific elements targeting key constituencies the campaign sees critical to winning in November, including Black, Latino and Asian American Pacific Islander voters, the campaign said.

Senior Advisor Symone Sanders noted that the first African American and Latino ad buys began in early June, saying that the Biden campaign is targeting communities of color early.

"Oftentimes we hear so much how campaigns wait until six to eight weeks out from Election Day to start communicating to African American, Latino voters, but we have been clear that African American and Latino voters are key parts of our general election strategy," Sanders told reporters.

The campaign plans on additionally targeting voters using digital ad buys for websites such as Hulu, YouTube, and ESPN--earmarking $60 million of the total investment for digital. Additionally, the campaign plans on targeting podcasts and digital audio, online gaming, as well as sports content.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the country, raising concerns about in-person voting, the media buy also features a voter education campaign aimed at raising awareness about voting options ahead of the November election. The seven-figure investment, according to the campaign, is likely to begin earlier than traditional mobilization efforts.

"People who have never considered voting anywhere other than at their polling place on Election Day — including substantial parts of the Biden base that have been hardest hit by COVID-19, like communities of color — are now coming to terms with the fact that their ability to participate in this fall's election will be affected by COVID-19," Dillon wrote in a memo outlining the strategy, arguing the campaign would "ensure our supporters know the options available to them when it comes to making their vote count."

Just weeks before Biden is expected to accept the Democratic nomination for president, speculation has intensified as to who he will select to be his pick for vice president. The Biden campaign told reporters on Tuesday that the nominee would be included in the upcoming ads.

Kate Bedingfield, who serves as deputy campaign manager and communications director, said the woman Biden selects will "have a robust presence on our campaign, moving forward." She added Biden's pick for vice president will "obviously be an important partner to Joe Biden throughout the rest of the campaign and hopefully into the White House. So, I think you should have every expectation that you'll see her in all facets of the campaign."

The investment comes as Biden continues to hold a polling lead nationally and in key battleground states with the election 90 days away, and on the heels of months of successful fundraising by the former vice president. The joint fundraising effort by Biden and the Democratic Party outpaced Trump and the GOP in both May and June fundraising totals.

But despite the optimistic outlook the campaign laid out, during a fundraiser Monday evening, Biden stressed that his campaign and its supporters "can't take [their] foot off the gas" as the election closes in.

"Every race I've run I assume I'm losing. I never assume I'm winning," Biden told donors.

"We're going to keep campaigning as aggressively as possible. We're going to need as many pathways to victory as we're going to get."

ABC’s Will Steakin contributed to this report

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