Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her allies have outspent Donald Trump handily across the nation, and especially in Florida. Nevertheless, polls show the race tightening to a statistical tie.
A full 95 percent of all campaign television ad spending scheduled between now and Election Day comes from Clinton’s team, according to an ABC News analysis of CMAG/Kantar Media data. Clinton’s campaign and her allies have reserved $143.2 million in television ads for the final stretch, while Trump’s team has only spent $6.8 million.
Florida presents a particularly stark example. Clinton is spending $36.6 million in that state, while Trump’s numbers reach a mere $700,000 — that’s 53 times more money for Clinton than for Trump. Florida is the largest of four crucial states for Trump’s campaign. If he wins Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, he will likely take the White House. If he loses just one, however, Clinton is almost a shoe-in. This year has proven bogus for most conventional wisdom, but Electoral College math does not lie, and neither do campaign ledgers.
Clinton’s TV ad spending also dwarfs that of Trump in the other key states. In Ohio, Clinton’s spending $20.9 million to Trump’s $1.8 million. In Pennsylvania, she has $18.8 million to his $1.5 million. In North Carolina, her numbers add up to $14.3 million to his $1.3 million.
The Democratic candidate leads by a mere 1.9 percent nationally, according to the RealClearPolitics average. In Florida, the race is at an exact tie, with both Trump and Clinton at 45.0 percent. A recent Monmouth University poll, released Tuesday, shows Clinton five points ahead, with key support coming from minorities.
Florida’s presidential races usually come down to the I-4 corridor, a region between Tampa and Orlando which is highly contested politically. The state’s northern third usually goes to the Republican, while the heavily Latino south often favors the Democrat. While generalizations always break down on some level, the usual trend among the Latino community is that Cubans often favor Republicans, while Puerto Ricans side with Democrats.
Nevertheless, Clinton’s low favorability has even the Puerto Ricans in the I-4 hesitant to pull the Democratic lever. The Associated Press’s Steve Peoples reported Wednesday that Clinton’s allies concede she has work to do among the Puerto Rican community.
“Hillary no sirve,” declared Kissimmee resident Heriberto Ferrer. This means “Hillary is useless” in Spanish. Ferrer is no fan of Trump — he flatly told a Republican volunteer, “I don’t want Trump to win. Period.” — but he certainly doesn’t sound “Ready for Hillary.” He said he can’t rule out voting for Trump, as he dislikes her so much.
Ferrer’s neighbor, Amparo Vargas, had a similar negative opinion of both candidates. “She’s a liar,” he said in Spanish. “I have no trust in Hillary. And I think Trump is a crazy man.”
This unpopularity might be one of the reasons Clinton’s campaign and her allies have invested more political advertising along the I-4 corridor than any other media market in the nation. Since June 28, her team spent a combined $28 million on advertising in the Tampa and Orlando areas, according to Kantar Media’s political ad tracker. Trump’s team, by contrast, has only invested slightly more than $5 million.
Next Page: Will Hillary’s micro-targeting pay off?
Clinton has adopted very sophisticated micro-targeting to reach the Puerto Rican community. Her Orlando radio ads not only feature Spanish language, but employ Spanish speakers with Puerto Rican accents. Trump has not aired any Spanish ads, much less micro-targeted to specific communities. The Census Bureau has reported that an estimated 1.6 million Florida residents speak English “less than very well.”
Worse, half of Trump’s campaign offices sat empty last weekend. While the Republican National Committee (RNC) said they had a paid staff of 200 on the ground, the Trump campaign told the AP the number was closer to 120, including both RNC staff and campaign staff.
“This is a campaign that is not necessarily built on the traditional bricks and mortar campaigning,” Susie Wiles, Trump’s top Florida operative, told the AP. She said she had been on the job for only about a week. Nevertheless, the campaign is signing up hundreds of new volunteers at every rally, Wiles added. She said the team keeps in touch with them by text message. Even so, the campaign relies on the RNC to do the grunt work of door knocking and phone calls.
As usual, the RNC sent volunteers into Puerto Rican neighborhoods last weekend. A handful of Spanish speakers reached out to voters in their native language. RNC Field Director Francheska Markus grew up in a Puerto Rican family, and used that connection ask the Spanish speakers to “have an open mind.”
During the same weekend, the Clinton campaign hosted 72 individual events in the Orlando area, including nearly 20 phone banks, 40 registration events, and a dozen door-knocking teams. State Senator Darren Soto, a Democrat who would be Florida’s first Puerto Rican member of Congress, argued that Trump has “stoked racism,” pushing his community toward Clinton. Even he admitted that the Democrat nominee needs to work hard for the support of Hispanics in Florida.
The Monmouth poll gave Clinton an overwhelming advantage among Hispanic, black, and Asian voters, who make up about one third of the electorate. Sixty-nine percent of these three groups backed Clinton, while only 16 percent said they favor Trump. Fifty-three percent of white voters backed the Republican nominee, while only 35 percent supported the Democrat.
An estimated 1,000 Puerto Rican families are moving to Florida from the U.S. territory every month. Unlike other immigrants, they arrive as American citizens and become eligible to vote almost immediately. Immigrant groups like this are considered the Democrats’ “blue wall,” but what if the wall starts showing cracks? If Puerto Ricans dislike Her Majesty, the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, might they end up breaking for Trump? Hillary’s massive spending in the I-4 suggests she’s terrified, and perhaps for good reason.