Kenneth P. Vogel and Alex Isenstadt report for Politico, Oct. 13, 2016:
A Politico analysis of campaign finance records reveals that the [Republican National] committee has not spent anything on commercials boosting Trump since he emerged as the party’s likely nominee.
That’s a stark departure from recent elections. In 2008 and 2012, the RNC spent tens of millions of dollars on so-called independent expenditures — principally TV ads, but also direct mail and phone banks — supporting its nominees or attacking their Democratic rivals.
The lack of air cover has prompted grumbling from Trump aides and allies, many of whom believe that the RNC was never fully supportive of their candidate and that it’s now turning its back completely on the anti-establishment nominee as his poll numbers crater.
“The Democrats have an unprecedented and lopsided advertising advantage in this race like we have never seen before, and it is having a serious and negative effect,” said Curt Anderson, a former RNC political director who is helping a pro-Trump super PAC, Rebuilding America Now. “It is possible that Trump has sealed his fate at this point, but it is still a terrible mistake not to have $50 million of advertising from the Republican Party exposing Hillary Clinton and keeping her numbers down,” said Anderson, who helped to lead the RNC’s independent expenditure effort in 2004 and 2008.
In 2004, the committee spent $18.2 million on independent expenditures — or IEs, in campaign parlance — boosting George W. Bush’s reelection bid. In 2008, the RNC’s IE spending surged to $53.5 million in support of John McCain’s campaign against Barack Obama. And in 2012, the RNC spent $42.4 million on IEs boosting Mitt Romney or opposing President Obama — with nearly 80 percent of the spending occurring before mid-October.
By contrast, this cycle the RNC has spent only $321,000 on independent expenditures attacking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. And all of that spending occurred last fall — before Trump had emerged as the leader for the GOP presidential nomination.
RNC chief of staff Katie Walsh said the committee is not going to spend any more money this cycle on television ads, but that the decision is completely unrelated to Trump.
Rather, she said, it stems from a strategic calculation made soon after the 2012 election that “that is not an efficient use of party committee dollars to spend money on television.” Pointing to a report that assessed the shortcomings of Republican efforts in the 2012 election, she said RNC leaders determined that the party’s money was better invested in data-driven voter contact operations.
“We put people on the ground for three years, invested in communities, doing data and voter registration, so that when we had a nominee, we would be able to link up with that nominee and work together to insure that the nominee had the best field program that the Republican nominee has ever had,” said Walsh.
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