This year in Michigan the Presidential Primary process was highly competitive on either side of the aisle. More money was spent on TV ads than any previous year.
For some, the spending paid off, for others it was a wasted effort.
Dominic Trimboli spoke with Craig Mauger, a political analyst from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Here’s a shortened version of their conversation.
Craig Mauger – M
Dominic Trimboli – T
T “How much money was spent on Presidential T.V. ads this year?”
M “We’ve compiled and analyzed to find 10.6 million dollars in broadcast tv ads were aired primarily in the three weeks leading up to the March 8th primary.”
T “Alright and can you tell me a little bit about whether that’s high or low for Michigan…”
M “ I think that’s high for Michigan. If you look at the turnout numbers, we had a pretty much a record turnout for our Presidential Primary. For comparisons sake, I’ll throw this out there, in 2012 there was 6.4 million dollars in tv ads, so you can see that we easily exceeded that number. This time around both sides of the race had candidates that were spending and that’s because we had competitive races on both sides of the partisan ballot. That’s been relatively rare in Michigan of late, usually one of the races isn’t competitive so when it comes to ad spending, if they aren’t competitive races noone is gonna be investing money in ads.
T “You already did say a little bit about how the Democrats are spending a little more heavily, can you talk about that a bit more.
M “Yea, on the Democratic side of things it appears from the ad spending numbers that Bernie Sanders campaign really put a stake in the ground in Michigan and said we need to win this state. Hillary’s campaign wasn’t spending as much as he was, that would indicate that they thought they we’re doing alright. Maybe they saw pretty late that, ‘Hey maybe we do have a problem here.’ In the end she did, and she lost to Bernie. I mean to have 7-million dollars, nearly 8-million dollars spent on the Democratic side, I mean that’s a huge number.”
T “Can we talk a little about the Republican side now?”
M “Yea definitely, so on the Republican side most of the spending is done by SuperPacs. SuperPacs, for your listeners, are organizations that can take unlimited contributions as long as they act independently of the candidates campaign. So Conservative Solutions is not supposed to be managed by Marco Rubio’s campaign. In the Republican side of things, Conservative Solutions, Rubio’s SuperPac, and New Day For America, which is the Super Pac supporting Ohio Governor John Kasich. Those are the two primary spenders. Rubio was at 1.5-million dollars with his SuperPac. When it comes to Kasich’s campaign and his Super Pac spending, they rang in a total of 942-thousand dollars. Both of those guys, even though they spent so much, they finished in 3rd and 4th in Michigan. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz who spent far less here, were 1st and 2nd. Which I think is pretty interesting, and it just points to the fact that Donald Trump continues to leverage his ability to get free media…”
T “Actually I wanted to talk to you a little bit more about that aspect, about how Donald Trump is kinda getting a lot of the free media coverage and didn’t have to spend too much money, can you speak a little bit more to that?”
M “Yea, Definitely, you can see across the cable media spectrum, if you turn on your tv, watch for any extended period of time you will most likely see Donald Trump. Donald Trump is leveraging his celebrity, his devisiveness. He’s such a polarizing figure. He gets a reaction from both Republicans, and Democrats. They’re usually pretty passionate reactions, and they can be in different directions obviously. So I mean he’s getting this free media attention, and everyone knows who he is. He’s been on tv for so long, he’s been a known figure for so long. He doesn’t have to spend as much on tv ads to get his message across, so he’s not doing it. He continually talks about the fact that he allegedly self-funds his campaign. He speaks out against lobbyists, and he speaks out against special interests, well he’s not really funding his campaign to the full extent, he’s taking some money from others.”
T “Alright, can we talk a little bit about the amount of people who showed up to this primary, and the amount of money spent on the tv ads. I feel like there were a lot more people showing up to this primary right?”
M “Yea, yea that’s an interesting number. There were about 2.5 million people who voted in the primary on March 8th, according to the Secretary of State. That shows you for every voter in the Michigan presidential primary there was 4 dollars spent on tv. That’s just broadcast tv advertising. There was a lot of other spending that happened. It just shows you how much money is flowing into our elections to try to leverage the voters when the spending is outpacing the number of people participating by four times the amount.”
T “4 dollars per person does not sound like that much money to me, but when you really look at it on the big scale it really does turn out to be a huge amount of money. Do you think that that lead to more people showing up to the primary?”
M “It’s very possible that the tv ads drove people out. This Presidential primary had so much interest in it on both sides. It was a conversation I know for myself, with friends who usually don’t care about politics. It was something that kind of broke out of the political box that these kind of things go into, and it was really a cultural thing acrossed interests.”