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Trump Campaign Halts Ad Spending While It Reviews Strategy

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 7/31/2020 Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou
graffiti on a wall: A campaign flag silhouettes attendees waiting in line to enter a rally with U.S. President Trump, not pictured, in Lexington, Kentucky in 2019. © Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg A campaign flag silhouettes attendees waiting in line to enter a rally with U.S. President Trump, not pictured, in Lexington, Kentucky in 2019.

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign halted radio and television advertising spending this week while it reviews its strategy under new campaign management.

With 95 days until the election, the Trump campaign spent only $4,700 on advertisements over the last three days while Democratic rival Joe Biden spent about $6 million in the same time period, according to Advertising Analytics.

The move comes almost two weeks after the Trump campaign named Bill Stepien as the new campaign manager, demoting Brad Parscale amid slipping poll numbers for the president.

The strategy review was first reported by NBC News.

Trump has seen his poll numbers tumble over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic -- which has killed about 150,000 people in the U.S. -- the economic crash and his response to the nationwide protests following the police killing of George Floyd. Trump is trailing Biden by 8 percentage points nationally, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.

The campaign also has little advertising planned for the month of August. Trump has about $26,000 booked through the end of the month, while Biden has booked $4 million during the same period, according to Advertising Analytics as of Friday evening. In July, the president outspent his rival $48 million to $32 million.

A campaign official said that beginning Monday it would focus its advertising efforts in states that start voting early. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, didn’t specify exactly which states would be targeted. In battleground states like Michigan and Minnesota, early voting begins as soon as September.

In a tweet Friday, Trump hinted that the ads would focus on defining Biden. “We are doing a new ad campaign on Sleepy Joe Biden that will be out on Monday,” Trump wrote. “He has been brought even further LEFT than Crazy Bernie Sanders ever thought possible.”

Even as the Trump campaign took the short break from advertising, Super PACs are spending on his behalf. Trump-aligned America First Action spent $1.4 million in advertising since Wednesday and has $8 million booked through the end of August. The Trump campaign has booked $146 million dollars in advertising from September through election day, according to Advertising Analytics. Biden has very little secured time after Labor Day.

Read more: Trump Scoops Up Fall TV Time as Biden Waits

The change in Trump’s campaign leadership followed a series of steps to shake up the race, including a change in tone on the coronavirus. Trump is now giving regular briefings on the issue, encouraging Americans to wear masks, social distance and donate plasma if they’ve already contracted the virus.

The president was counting on a strong economy and historically low unemployment numbers to boost his re-election efforts, but since the pandemic hit the U.S. economy, his campaign has struggled to find a new message. His advertising efforts so far have focused on a message of “law and order” following the protests that have erupted in several U.S. cities. He has focused on calls by some Democrats to “defund the police.” While Biden has not called for cutting police funding, he has supported tying federal grants to departments improving their records in relations with minority communities.

(Adds campaign in early-voting states in seventh, eighth paragraphs)

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