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Trump off the air in Ohio and Iowa as polls show tight races in both states

CNN logo CNN 10/5/2020 By Eric Bradner, David Wright and Donald Judd, CNN
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: US President Donald Trump walks from Marine One after arriving on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, October 1, 2020, following campaign events in New Jersey. © Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images US President Donald Trump walks from Marine One after arriving on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, October 1, 2020, following campaign events in New Jersey.

President Donald Trump's campaign canceled its planned television advertising in Iowa and Ohio this week, focusing its spending on states where Trump is behind even as polls show he is neck-and-neck with Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the two Midwestern states.

Trump's campaign canceled its ad reservations of $2.5 million in Ohio and $820,000 in Iowa this week, according to ad-tracking firm CMAG. It'll be his third consecutive week without television ads in Iowa and Ohio.

The moves come even as public polls suggest Trump needs to shore up support in the two states that he won by about 9 percentage points each in 2016. A CBS/YouGov poll out Sunday showed Biden and Trump tied at 47% each in Ohio, while a New York Times/Siena College poll in late September showed Biden with a 45% to 42% lead Iowa.

View Trump and Biden head-to-head polling

Trump's campaign claimed that the canceled reservations were a result of its confidence he'll win those states.

"President Trump and his campaign are extremely confident about our chances in these states. We have been talking directly with voters for years via multiple avenues about the success of President Trump's America First agenda. Unlike Joe Biden, campaign ads aren't the only way we know how to campaign," Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager said.

But polls show Trump faces more dire challenges elsewhere. Trump trails by larger margins in other marquee swing states, including six he won in 2016: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A loss in Ohio or Iowa would likely mean even larger losses in those states.

Biden's campaign has made limited plays for Iowa and Ohio -- a state that was one of the nation's most important battlegrounds until recent elections, but has drifted in Republicans' favor in recent years.

His campaign has spent $3 million on ads in Ohio, compared to Trump's $6.8 million there. And Biden made several stops in Ohio following last week's presidential debate in Cleveland, during a whistle-stop train tour through eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

He'll spend $1 million in Ohio and $565,000 in Iowa over the next week while Trump is off the airwaves there.

Campaigns redirecting their ad spending is a normal part of the final weeks of a race, as they focus their budgets on their top priorities. And while neither campaign has reported yet how much money they raised and had left at the end of September, Biden is expected to have a significant financial advantage.

Visit CNN's Election Center for full coverage of the 2020 race

Biden's campaign, too, is shifting its spending, including canceling $1.5 milling in reservations in Texas for next week, as well as pulling about $420,000 from Virginia and $370,000 from Colorado, also set for the week starting Tuesday. The Biden campaign also added $1.2 million to its Minnesota ad reservations.  

Overall, Ohio hasn't attracted the scale of outside spending that most of the key battlegrounds have.

Trump has spent almost $15 million to date in Ohio, per CMAG, compared to his three most expensive states, with $77 million in Florida, $36 million in North Carolina and $29 million in Pennsylvania. Biden, meanwhile, has spent a little more than $7 million in Ohio, compared to $95 million in Florida, $55 million in Pennsylvania and $43 million in North Carolina.

In total, outside groups have spent just about $3.8 million here, compared to $76 million in Pennsylvania, $62 million in Florida and $46 million in Wisconsin. 

In Ohio, pro-Democratic groups have spent or reserved about $1.7 million in spending -- including $1.3 million from the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump organization run by veteran GOP operatives -- while Republican groups account for a little over $2 million.

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