Biden vastly outspends Trump in record-shattering presidential cycle

Final tab for 2020 ad spending far exceeds the price tag for the 2016 election

The 2020 election is the most expensive in history.

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Total ad spending over the two-year campaign cycle has reached a record-breaking $8.15 billion, according to figures provided by Advertising Analytics, a leading national ad tracking firm. The tab is far more than the originally estimated $6.7 billion and shatters the $6.5 billion price tag set four years ago

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Also record-busting: Nearly a third of the total spending was shelled out just on the presidential campaign -- from the beginning of the primaries through Tuesday’s general election.

“As we hit the homestretch of this record-breaking presidential season, we can begin to truly absorb the enormity of the complete spend volume. Total presidential ad expenditures are inching towards $3 billion in totality, proving that linear and digital advertising remain the most impactful use of advertising dollars,” Advertising Analytics Vice President John Link told Fox News.

The final estimated numbers also show that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden dramatically outspent President Trump during the general election on campaign ads.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The former vice president’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee combined dished out $674 million to run ads, compared to $474 million by Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee.

And pro-Biden and pro-Democratic super PACs and other outside groups outspent their pro-Trump and pro-GOP rivals $1.1 billion to $757 million.

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The final tab in the Biden-Trump ad war is a dramatic reversal from where the race stood in mid-April, as the presidential general election kicked off.

Trump had been raising money for his re-election ever since he took over the White House in January 2017, and he enjoyed a massive early fundraising advantage over Biden, who emerged in mid-April as the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee following a bruising primary battle. Biden didn’t make his first major ad buy on television until the middle of June.

President Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd after speaking at a campaign rally Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, at the Austin Straubel Airport in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

But thanks in part to a surge in fundraising in late spring through summer, including record-shattering campaign cash hauls in August and September, Biden dramatically outspent Trump on TV ads the past three months. In the digital ad wars, Biden has slightly edged the president in spending.

"After being outspent by more than $30 million from April to July, a significant increase in fundraising allowed the Biden campaign to expand paid media efforts, eventually outspending the Trump campaign by $275 million since August,” Advertising Analytics political account manager Ben Taber noted.

Trump’s re-election campaign predicts that the Biden advantage in the ad wars will be neutralized by the ground operation they’ve built up over the past two years. Campaign manager Bill Stepien said earlier this month that the Biden campaign’s efforts this spring and summer to expand their ground game were “too late” and criticized the former vice president’s strategy for "putting it all on TV."

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There’s been no letup in Biden’s spending advantage over Trump in the closing days.

The Biden campaign and the DNC are estimated to spend $66 million to run ads in the final week of the campaign ahead of Election Day. That’s more than double the $30 million being spent by the Trump campaign and the RNC. And pro-Biden outside groups are estimated to out-spend their pro-Trump rivals $60 million to $47 million.