© 2024 WCLK
Atlanta's Jazz Station--Classic, Cool, Contemporary
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Jazz 91.9 WCLK | Membership Matters

$300 million worth of ads have hit voters ahead of the first GOP primary contests

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley arrives at a campaign event at the Olympic Theater in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday. The state's caucuses will be held on Monday.
Anna Moneymaker
Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley arrives at a campaign event at the Olympic Theater in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday. The state's caucuses will be held on Monday.

Almost $300 million has been spent to try to win the Republican presidential nomination so far, two-thirds of it in the first two nominating states, Iowa and New Hampshire, according to data analyzed by NPR and compiled by the ad-tracking firm AdImpact.

Most of that money is coming from super PACs and outside groups.


Both DeSantis and Trump are focused on ... Haley

Overall, the campaigns and groups supporting them have spent $270 million. They are aiming to win over voters by touting their candidates' strengths, but in these closing days before voting begins, they're also going after the candidates they see as the biggest threat.

And for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, that's Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations under Trump and former South Carolina governor.

"Nikki doesn't respect you," says an announcer in a pro-DeSantis ad, running in Iowa. The ad quotes Haley saying in New Hampshire that New Hampshire "corrects" what Iowa does in GOP primaries. "She thinks New England knows better. ... Why should Iowans support another fake politician who disrespects them?"

In New Hampshire, Trump is up with an ad attacking Haley on Social Security, and the super PAC supporting him is focusing on immigration.

"Nikki Haley refused to call illegals criminals," the ad's narrator says, adding, "Illegals are criminals. Nikki, that's what illegal means."

For months, it was just Haley and DeSantis and the groups supporting them exchanging blows on the airwaves. But now, Haley seems to be relishing the attention from Trump in a state where she has been gaining on the former president in the polls.

"Why is Donald Trump only attacking Nikki Haley?" says an ad from the super PAC SFA Fund Inc., supporting Haley. "Because Trump knows Haley is the only one who can beat him."

Showing images of Trump and Biden on screen, the ad closes this way: "Want an 80-year-old name from the past or a new generation of conservative leadership?"

Another attacks Trump for "one temper tantrum after another" and for running "an entire campaign based on revenge."

Super PACs are carrying more of the load than past years

Super PACs and outside groups often do the dirty work for a candidate, running highly negative ads against opponents, while the campaigns try to stay above the fray.

They have historically spent roughly as much as the campaigns do on ads, maybe a little more. But in this election, an inordinate amount of control of the airwaves is being given to super PACs. Super PACs, unlike campaigns, can raise unlimited amounts of money – from the wealthiest Americans to corporations and labor unions.

Team Haley – consisting of Haley's campaign, the SFA Fund Inc. super PAC and the Koch-backed AFP Action – has spent the most overall to support a candidate: a combined $72 million.

Put another way: $1 out of every $4 spent on ads in this race have come from Haley and groups supporting her.

In the past two weeks, Haley and groups supporting her have surpassed DeSantis and the three super PACs supporting him — after the pro-DeSantis groups largely dominated the airwaves for months. Infighting among Team DeSantis has been reported by several outlets, with top advisers jumping ship. After one was fired, the super PAC canceled millions in reserved ads.

DeSantis and allies have spent $60 million. Trump and the groups supporting him have poured in $54 million.

No one else is even in the same league.

These super PACs are carrying 70% of the ad spending for Trump, 75% for Haley and a whopping 92% for DeSantis.

Every winning candidate nowadays needs super PAC backing, and they have huge fundraising advantages because of the lack of constrictions. But campaigns are barred from coordinating with these outside groups — and super PACs are charged a higher rate in advertising, so they run fewer ads for the money than campaigns.

More than $100 million spent on Iowa alone

Iowans have seen the most ads of any state, with more than $100 million spent. New Hampshire has seen about $70 million worth of ads.

After that, there is a severe drop off. Only about $6 million has been spent so far on South Carolina, the fourth state in the nominating contests (Feb. 24), and just $1 million on Nevada, which goes third (Feb. 8).

Voters are starting to tune in now to the presidential race, but the candidates have been thinking about Iowa and New Hampshire for almost two years, even before Trump became the first candidate to officially announce he was running, back in November of 2022.

With all this money being spent, it shows how important those two states are to the candidates' hopes, especially those not named Trump.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.