Politics

A Democratic Super PAC Surge Helps Biden Expand His Map

Enormous advertising buys announced in the last month of the campaign amount to a huge advantage for Joe Biden, allowing him to fight in long-shot states like Texas.

By Nick Corasaniti

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Until a month ago, the biggest-spending Democratic super PAC in the general election had aired only a single television ad during the campaign. Now the group, Future Forward, is on pace to spend more than $108 million on television ads supporting Joe Biden and two Senate candidates, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.

The group is barreling into the race a month after Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor and presidential candidate, pledged to spend $100 million to support Mr. Biden — exclusively in Florida. And Priorities USA, one of the biggest and oldest Democratic super PACs, has already spent $66 million since the start of the general election.

The result is yet another yawning advantage on the airwaves for Mr. Biden, who has already outspent President Trump in TV advertising by a nearly 2-to-1 margin since the general election kicked off in earnest in April. With outside groups factored in, Democratic spending in the presidential campaign has reached nearly $400 million for the final month of the race, compared with nearly $200 million in Republican spending, according to Advertising Analytics. (Check out our visual comparison of the Biden and Trump spending.)

Future Forward is backed by a Rolodex of influential Silicon Valley donors, according to records filed today with the Federal Election Commission, and first reported by Recode. It’s betting that the expensive gambit of late-campaign television advertising can still be effective in an exceptionally polarized electorate, even as more than 33.7 million ballots have already been cast, the equivalent of roughly 24 percent of the total number of votes cast in the 2016 general election.

The group’s biggest funder is Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook, who kicked in more than $20 million to the group, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Other donors include Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive of Google; Kathryn Murdoch, of the Murdoch family; Samuel Bankman-Fried, a founder of a cryptocurrency exchange; and Patty Quillin, the wife of the Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings.

The team behind Future Forward has a background in data-driven television advertising. Chauncey McLean, who is listed as the group’s president on forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service, was the director of media tracking for the Democratic Party in 2012 and was part of a team that revolutionized political ad buying by targeting television ads to persuadable voters with the precision of the internet. The effort was known as “the optimizer,” as my colleague Jim Rutenberg wrote in 2013.

While the group is joining the fight in major swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, it’s also spending money in some traditionally Republican states that have shown tightening polls, like Texas.

Though Texas has the second most Electoral College votes in the country, it is an extraordinarily expensive state to run an ad campaign in. And given that Texas hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976, spending money there can appear to campaign strategists like a quixotic, Napoleon-invades-Russia strategy, even for a well-funded campaign like Mr. Biden’s.

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