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Joe Biden’s campaign plans a $280 million ad campaign for the final three months of the presidential race

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks about his plans to combat racial inequality at a campaign event in Wilmington, Del., on July 28, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is planning a robust $280 million advertising effort for the final three months before Election Day, expanding its television presence as he attempts to convince voters in 15 states, including traditionally Republican-friendly Texas, Arizona, and Georgia.

During a briefing with reporters on Tuesday evening, top Biden advisers made clear that the coronavirus pandemic has reoriented the final stretch of the race and would have a significant impact on their strategy. Their campaign advertisements will feature Biden speaking at length about the virus and about how Americans can ensure their right to vote. Some will criticize Trump’s handling of the global pandemic, and how Biden would handle things differently. A large number of the ads will be 60 seconds long, twice the length of traditional ads.

“We think they’re important because they give a fuller, clearer sense of the vice president, and the message we’re carrying,” said Mike Donilon, the chief strategist for the campaign. “And that is in a stark contrast to what is an almost exclusively negative attack campaign that the Trump campaign has decided to unleash. And that’s where we are.”

Donilon said that while Trump may have been effective in the past at dominating the news environment, the coronavirus makes it more difficult for Trump as he must argue against increasing fatalities and job losses.

“A lot of what Trump has done over the years is — he’s not going to be able to create a new reality,” he said. “There is a reality in this country and the reality is that the coronavirus is out of control. The reality is that he has failed to lead, and the reality is that the country is looking for a person who will take leadership on this issue and really bring the country together and give people confidence that we have the ability to get this virus under control, get the economy back on track.”

A portion of the ads will also be designed at addressing voting issues, detailing to voters how to cast early ballots and countering President Trump’s attempts to sow doubt in the vote-by-mail system.

“We know that in a pandemic we are in unprecedented times with voting in general,” said Jen O’Malley Dillon, the Biden campaign manager. “We’ve seen chaos in recent primary elections and we know that our responsibility is to make sure that we give voters everything they need to be able to vote — vote early, and vote safely.”

“Our advertising strategy is going to do just that, and serve as a way to break through a lot of the misinformation out there,” she added.

The ad campaign is spread across 15 states, but Biden’s advisers would not break down the spending, making it difficult to immediately determine how significant their investment was in Republican-leaning states.

In addition to traditional battlegrounds that Trump carried four years ago — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida — the Biden campaign is also buying ads in states that Democrats carried, including New Hampshire, Colorado, and Minnesota.

His advisers see new opportunities to expand the traditional Democratic map by spending in Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. Texas last voted for a Democratic nominee in 1976, Georgia in 1992 and Arizona in 1996. They are also buying ads in Ohio, a perennial battleground that in recent years had been trending toward Republicans. Trump won the state by 8 points.

Trump for much of the campaign has had a dominant financing advantage, and since 2017 his campaign, the Republican Party, and two affiliated committees had spent more than $983 million, a record-breaking sum at this point, according to filing made public last month.

But Trump’s campaign last week temporarily paused its television advertising amid a broader campaign shake-up, and Biden has used several better months of fundraising to close the financing gap.

Trump’s campaign declined to provide figures on its ad strategy, including which states it would target. An Associated Press review of Kantar/CMAG data indicated Trump’s campaign has reserved $147 million in ads and was focused on states that he won four years ago, including Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan.

“We look forward to the Biden ad that brags about surrendering his entire agenda to socialists Bernie Sanders and AOC,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said, referring to Biden’s more liberal primary rival as well as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y).

“This is clearly an attempt to cover up the fact that he’s playing defense – running ads in Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Virginia?” he added. “Bad signs for Biden.”

In addition to targeting key states, the Biden campaign is also buying national television ads — aiming to reach voters during sporting events, presidential debates, and nightly news broadcasts — and has placed ads on stations that target Black and Latino audiences.

Of the $280 million in ads, about $60 million is being spent on digital platforms, targeting YouTube, ESPN, and Hulu as well as podcasts and online gaming.

Biden campaign advisers would not provide details about his selection of a running mate, a process that he is expected to complete this week or next, revealing only that some of his ads would include the woman he chooses.

“You can expect to see her out in terms of our paid media, and she’ll have a robust presence on our campaign moving forward,” said Kate Bedingfield, the deputy campaign manager. “She’s going to be obviously an important partner to Joe Biden throughout the rest of the campaign and hopefully into the White House.”