Ahead Of Super Tuesday, Bloomberg Has Spent Millions On TV Ads In Colorado. Others Have Spent Nothing

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Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Mike Bloomberg speaks at the opening of his new campaign office in downtown Denver, Feb. 1, 2020.

Billionaire Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg is spending millions on television ads in Colorado in the weeks leading up to Super Tuesday. 

Since declaring his candidacy around Thanksgiving, Bloomberg has already poured over $5 million into the Denver market and an additional $1 million in the Colorado Springs-Pueblo market. Bloomberg is self-funding his campaign. 

A distant second in spending is Bernie Sanders at just under half a million. Elizabeth Warren is in third at just over $210,000 as of Thursday night. They are the only ones who are heavily investing in Colorado so far. Warren's campaign's buys happened in recent days, ahead of her appearance in the state on Sunday.

Tom Steyer, another billionaire candidate, is also putting money into Colorado, but he has been relatively inactive in the new year. Most of his spending was in the latter half of 2019 and it comes to less than $50,000. 

None of the other candidates have spent money on television ads in Colorado. Television stations have to disclose whenever a political candidate buys advertising through the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC gives programming rules for radio, television, cable television, and direct broadcast satellite. Digital advertising does not have the same rules.

Seth Masket, the director of the Center of American Politics at the University of Denver, said it’s surprising that so little resources from the other candidates are being put into Colorado, but he doesn’t see it as them blowing off the state. 

“We’re by no means the biggest prize on Super Tuesday,” Masket said. “We’re up against California, we’re up against Texas, so the candidates are certainly devoting their resources to much more delegate-rich areas of the country.” 

Bloomberg is spending so heavily that there are stations in Colorado that are only running his ads. Most of the ads are concentrated in Denver and Colorado Springs television markets. He also is investing a large chunk of his resources to Spanish-speaking stations such as Telemundo and Univision. 

The initial spend projections in Colorado’s presidential primary according to Advertising Analytics, a tracking firm, was about $6.4 million. Not only has the race already surpassed that, but Bloomberg is behind the majority of that spending. It’s projected that there will be about $56 million spent in Colorado by the time the general election comes in November. 

“We’re seen a lot more spending than is typical, but that’s all driven by billionaires: Bloomberg and Steyer,” said Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “Spending by the other candidates seems quite comparable to past nomination races.” 

Nationally, Bloomberg is also outspending his competitors. Ahead of the New Hampshire primaries, he was already investing more than $300 million, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. Most of that money has been dedicated to broadcast and cable television. Steyer is in second place for national spending at $169.5 million in total across all mediums.

But Masket emphasized that spending a lot of money does not predict winning. 

“Tom Steyer is a great example of someone who has spent a lot of money and it hasn’t really paid off for him so far,” Masket said. “Donald Trump is an interesting example as well. When he ran in 2016, he spent far less than most of the leading Republicans in the primaries but still managed to win.”

Masket argued that the key difference between Steyer’s and Bloomberg’s strategies is that Steyer is using his billions to try to compete in a more conventional way — like qualifying for debates. Bloomberg has done the opposite by avoiding the early contests and, until Wednesday, not participating in any of the debates. 

It’s difficult to pinpoint a true frontrunner nationally.

“Joe Biden is still the leader in endorsements, which is usually a good predictor of who’s going to win,” Masket said. “Despite that, you have Bernie Sanders leading in the polls, you have Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg leading in spending, and you have Pete Buttigieg is leading in the number of delegates.” 

It’s equally difficult to predict who will win Colorado. Sanders won the state in 2016, but that was when Colorado used a closed caucus for presidential primaries. Now it uses a semi-closed primary. 

Sanders is now leading nationally in polls, a new development in the new year. Biden was the frontrunner for all of 2019, but now sits in second, with Bloomberg trailing close behind as of Feb. 18. 

Sanders won the most recent primary in New Hampshire with 25.7 percent of the vote. Bloomberg was a late entry into the race and did not appear on the ballot in New Hampshire.

A lot of the leading candidates have already visited the state or have plans to do so. Those candidates include Sanders, Bloomberg, Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tulsi Gabbard.