After six months of basking in the glow of practically infinite free television airtime, Donald Trump is now reportedly preparing to open his checkbook and start supplementing his innumerable phoned-in interviews with paid advertising – to the tune of millions of dollars a week.
The news comes via Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz, who broke the story on Monday morning. According to Kurtz, the Trump team had originally contemplated spending tens of millions on advertising as early as the third quarter of 2015, but public and media fascination with the former reality television star’s candidacy resulted in saturation coverage of his campaign, making ad spending practically redundant.
However, with the key Iowa caucuses only a little more than a month away, Trump is facing a challenge from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose religiosity makes him a more attractive candidate to many voters in the evangelical Christian-heavy Midwestern state.
Fox reports that Trump is prepared to spend as much as $100 million of his own money at the rate of more than $2 million a week on an advertising blitz aimed at cementing his frontrunner status.
Trump has a commanding lead in national polls of registered Republican voters and registered independents who say they lean toward the Republican Party. However, candidates have to win individual state contests that take place over the course of several months, which creates the possibility that a candidate who trailing in the national polls at the outset can build momentum with a few key victories in early states.
That is plainly the hope of virtually every candidate in the GOP race except for Trump. Almost every national poll gives the billionaire a double-digit advantage over his closest competitor. A CNN/ORG poll released last week showed him at 39 percent, with a 21-point advantage over Cruz.
A Quinnipiac poll also released last week showed Trump with only a four-point margin, at 28-24, but that result, and a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from early December that found Trump ahead by 5 points, appear to be outliers. The Real Clear Politics polling average puts Trump’s advantage at 18.7 percent.
However, in Iowa, RCP shows Trump trailing Cruz by 2.8 percent in its polling average, though the most recent entry found the race stuck in a 31-31 tie. Trump appears safer in New Hampshire, where the average of polls from December shows him 13.7 points ahead of Cruz. It’s the same story in South Carolina, the third state to vote, here he leads by an average 14.4 percent.
However, the Trump team understands that a loss in Iowa could cause those margins in New Hampshire and South Carolina to narrow quickly and dramatically, and that once Trump’s aura of invincibility is broken, he may not be able to repair it.
Neither Trump, Cruz or any of the other GOP candidates would necessarily be out of the race if they fail to capture Iowa. But a Trump victory there would make things much tougher for his competitors to create the sense of momentum they will need to mount a serious challenge to him in subsequent primaries.