“I’ve been hit by 55,000 ads. I saw it on your show, 55,000 negative ads, and nobody else has. You know, you look at a guy like Kasich. He has never been hit by an ad because nobody cares, frankly.”
— Donald Trump, interview on “The Today Show,” April 21, 2016
“He will get slaughtered by Hillary. He’s never had one negative ad against him. I’ve had 55,000,” Trump said. “As soon as he’s had the first 10 ads against him, he’ll drop like a rock.”
— Trump, quoted in Politico, April 20, 2016
After Trump’s victory in New York, it’s now just about mathematically impossible for Ted Cruz and John Kasich to win the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention. (Cruz and Kasich have acknowledged this.) Trump now highlights that he has been successful despite the number of attack ads that have run against him. In fact, Kasich never even had an attack ad aired against him, Trump says.
Is that correct?
The short answer is: No. In fact, his own campaign has aired an attack ad on Kasich in Ohio. “I’m Donald Trump, and I approved this message,” the ad begins, and goes on to attack Kasich for helping Lehman Brothers “destroy the world economy.” We awarded it Four Pinocchios.
Trump also seems to have forgotten that there once were several GOP governors running for the nomination, many attacking each other over their gubernatorial records. Just three months ago, Kasich was head-to-head against two other governors (Jeb Bush and Chris Christie). Outside groups aired ads attacking Kasich’s record, especially ones supporting Bush. We fact-checked some of the ads attacking Kasich — here, here and here.
Kasich has been especially vulnerable to attacks over his decisions to allow Medicaid expansion in Ohio, adopt higher education standards set through Common Core, and raising sales taxes (which were offset by income tax cuts).
Outside groups have spent nearly $5 million opposing Kasich in direct mail pieces, digital ads and TV ads, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Trump says there were 55,000 ads aired against him. He seems to be citing calculations made by news outlets that analyze political ad tracking data from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. But those calculations are not talking about 55,000 different ads. In late March, the Associated Press reported that 68 anti-Trump commercials had aired some 44,000 times nationwide. CNN, using the same ad tracking firm’s data, calculated that anti-Trump ads had aired more than 53,000 times.
We consulted our partners at Political TV Ad Archive, a project of the Internet Archive to track political ads in key primary states. As of March 23, the project tracked 20 markets in nine key primary states. They are now tracking ads airing in markets in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Political TV Ad Archive provided us a list of ads that mentioned Kasich in the markets they are tracking, but did not say anything favorable about him. These ads were not sponsored by his campaign committee or outside groups supporting him. They include direct attack ads against Kasich and ads contrasting Kasich to other candidates.
Their data are not exhaustive, but give a picture of the volume of ads that have aired for or against candidates. Political TV Ad Archive recorded 2,485 instances of ads that weren’t supportive of Kasich. For Trump, they recorded 14,963 instances.
The Trump campaign, as usual, did not respond to our request for comment.
The Pinocchio Test
It’s fine to say far more ads have aired attacking Trump than Kasich, but Trump went even further to say that no ads have attacked Kasich. That’s just not true. In fact, his own campaign has run an ad attacking Kasich. Attack ads sponsored by candidate committees and outside groups were fairly consistent earlier in the primary cycle, especially ones contrasting his record to other governors in the race.
Trump, who certainly sounds gleeful saying he approved of the ad attacking Kasich, earns another round of Four Pinocchios.
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