Though Trump has an outsized ability to command national attention, it is unusual for a White House contender to go mostly dark on TV the week after their presidential convention. The election is just over two months away and early voting will begin in September in some states.
The move comes as Trump's campaign has burned through money almost as fast as it has taken it in. And after Biden drastically narrowed what was once an overwhelming cash advantage enjoyed by the president, campaign officials have acknowledged they were trying to conserve money.
That's allowed Biden an opportunity to communicate an unfiltered message to voters without competing advertising.
During the month of August, Biden doubled what Trump spent, dropping about $80 million in states that included key battlegrounds such as Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.
Trump's limited spending targeted some of those states, but it was also directed to places like Iowa and Montana, which he won handily in 2016. This week he is spending about $1.6 million to Biden's $18.3 million. Most of Trump's ads are placed on Fox News Channel and CNN, as well as a smattering that will run in New Mexico and Washington, D.C., the data shows.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller said Monday that the campaign will be going back up on the air this week. Yet data from Kantar/CMAG shows it does not have an increase in advertising booked until Sept. 8.
“We have over $200 million worth of TV ads that are reserved (from) Labor Day until Election Day,” Miller said. "We’re speaking with voters in states as they’re starting to come online.”
The lack of advertising to drive home his message comes as Trump has sought shift the focus of the race from his handling of the coronavirus and the resulting economic collapse to the need for “law and order” after recent unrest in some cities, including Portland, Oregon, and Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Nationwide, protests against police brutality have largely been peaceful, though there has been some violence, looting and property destruction, particularly in Portland.
A man affiliated with the right-wing group Patriot Prayer died in that city after he was shot Saturday amid skirmishes between Trump backers who led a car caravan through the city and Black Lives Matter protesters who had gathered for another night of demonstrations.
Trump will travel to Kenosha on Tuesday to address the unrest. While the data shows his campaign is not currently running TV ads there, ones it has placed on Facebook that target the state have focused on the protests.
A handful of those ads seek to tie Democrats to activists who have called for defunding the police in response to law enforcement brutality.
One ad, titled “Democrats have lost their minds,” urges Trump supporters to come together “to send a united message that we demand law and order.”
Biden has said he is against defunding the police and in a speech Monday decried the violence while blaming Trump for stoking division.
“He doesn’t want to shed light, he wants to generate heat, and he’s stoking violence in our cities," Biden said. "He can’t stop the violence because for years he’s fomented it.”
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.