Unlike Republican presidential candidates, Sanders and Clinton have kept their advertising positive for the time being — in contrast with their recent debates with one another.
TV ads sponsored by Sanders and Clinton typically tout their own platforms, personal histories and campaign promises.
Clinton’s supportive super PACs also have yet to target Sanders, despite pro-Clinton Priorities USA Action raising $25.3 million during the second half of 2016, with $6 million coming from billionaire George Soros.
The role of going negative
A crowded Republican field has led to more attack ads as candidates struggle to remain viable.
In New Hampshire last week, about two in five TV ads sponsored by a Republican candidate or supportive super PAC attacked an opponent, either in part or full, the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data indicates.
Bush’s campaign and Right to Rise USA super PAC engaged in heavy negative advertising last week, as did a super PAC, Conservative Solutions PAC, supporting Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (Rubio’s own campaign aired more than 700 ads with a decidedly positive tone.)
Then there’s Donald Trump, who didn’t air a single TV ad in New Hampshire until 2016.
But when Trump finally did, his opponents and affiliated outside groups immediately pounced with nasty, anti-Trump ads of their own.
So Trump struck back, inundating the first-in-the-nation primary state with more than 3,500 ads between January and February, Kantar Media/CMAG data indicates. More than a third of Trump’s ads aired during the past week, many promoting the billionaire businessman, but others lampooning Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who edged him out last week in Iowa’s caucus.
Trump still remains a frequent target in ads sponsored by super PACs — most prominently, by the pro-Bush Right to Rise USA.
He wasn’t only targeted by candidate-specific groups: one super PAC — for now — is entirely dedicated to discrediting Trump.
Formed by Katie Packer, the former deputy director of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run, Our Principles PAC spent about $2.5 million in a last-ditch effort to knock Trump down in Iowa and New Hampshire polls.
“With voting almost here, Donald Trump has a secret,” says a narrator in one Our Principles PAC ad, which casts Trump as a liberal. “Trump doesn't want you to know he supports a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.”