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Pro-Bush super PAC the big TV ad spender

More than half of the $1 million being spent on political ads in the local TV market are in support of a single candidate — Republican Jeb Bush.

More than half of the $1 million being spent on political ads in the local TV market are in support of a single candidate — Republican Jeb Bush.

Right to Rise, a super PAC that backs the former Florida governor, is slated to spend nearly $603,000 on TV spots in the Rochester-Austin-Mason City TV market, according to a Post-Bulletin analysis of Federal Communications Commission filings through Nov. 30. That figure doesn't include spending on TV ads airing on cable and satellite stations.

Hamline University political science professor David Schultz said it makes sense the pro-Bush super PAC is spending big in the lead-up to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1. Bush has continued to struggle in the polls, and his political future likely rests, in part, on how he does in the Hawkeye State.

"Bush has to start spending and has to do something to have at least a respectable showing in Iowa," Schultz said.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers had Bush coming in sixth with 4 percent support. The top-place finisher was New York media mogul Donald Trump with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 23 percent and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 18 percent.


Trump has yet to spend any money on political advertising in the local TV market. That doesn't surprise Schultz.

"He's got all the free media he wants in the world," he said.

A prime example was Trump hosting NBC's Saturday Night Live show on Nov. 7. He was on air for 12 minutes, prompting some of his GOP rivals to demand equal time from the network.

Last weekend, NBC granted the requests of GOP candidates John Kasich, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Mike Huckabee and Jim Gilmore for equal time on stations with viewers in Iowa and New Hampshire — including local station KTTC. Jerry Watson, regional vice president for Quincy Broadcasting, which owns KTTC, said that's the first time in his 40-year career he has ever seen anything like that happen.

"The network realized they put their affiliates in a position where they had to step up," Watson said.

The second-biggest spender on political spots was GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio. His campaign is slated to spend more than $160,000 on ads in the local TV market.

While the Right to Rise super PAC's ad in support of Bush focuses on his track record as Florida governor, one of Rubio's latest ads focuses on a single issue: Terrorism. Standing against a black background, Rubio references the latest terrorist attacks in Paris and says, "This is a civilizational struggle between the values of freedom and liberty, and radical Islamic terror. What happened in Paris could happen here. There is no middle ground."

Clinton, Sanders spending is close


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came in third when it comes to political ad spending in the local TV market. Her campaign is expected to spend more than $141,000 in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses.

Close behind her is her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, whose campaign spent more than $119,000. Recent polls show Clinton's lead over Sanders in Iowa has grown. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 51 percent of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers are planning to support Clinton, compared to 42 percent for Sanders and 4 percent for former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Clinton's latest ads have focused on specific issues, including gun violence. One ad features the former Secretary of State talking to a crowd about the need to toughen the nation's gun laws. Clinton asks, "How many people have to die before we actually act, before we come together as a nation?" Her questions get strong applause from the audience.

One of Sanders' recent ads focus on his history of activism, noting he was part of the 1963 march on Washington for civil rights and that he opposed the Iraq War. In one scene, the Vermont senator is addressing a large rally and says, "People are sick and tired of establishment politics, and they want real change."

Schultz said it makes sense that Clinton and Sanders' spending on political ads is similar because they have about the same amount of money. In the third quarter, Sanders raised nearly as much as Clinton.

"Sanders actually has enough money to run a serious media campaign in Iowa," Schultz said.

While these ads may primarily be targeted at Iowa caucusgoers, they are also reaching Minnesota voters who will head to caucuses on March 1. Schultz said the 2016 presidential race is expected to be the most expensive in U.S. history, with total spending likely to reach $6 billion. He estimates one-third of those dollars will be spent during the caucus and primary season.

Political ads big for local TV stations


For the local TV stations, the political ad season brings with it big money. Mason City, Iowa-based KIMT is seeing the biggest influx of cash, with the station expected to run nearly 59 percent of all the presidential campaign ads. Rochester-based KTTC comes in second with roughly 20 percent. KAAL is slated to run 15 percent of the ads and KXLT has sold 6 percent.

KAAL National Sales Manager Chris Mans declined to comment for this story.

Watson said political ad season is critical for local stations. He said ad spending ahead of the Iowa caucus has been less than KTTC executives were expecting.

"(The spending) is actually softer than we would had planned in the beginning of the year, and I think that has everything to do with how many GOP candidates there are. There isn't a clear frontrunner, so the PACs are kind of hanging back," he said.

But Watson said he wouldn't be surprised if spendings picks up as the Iowa and Minnesota caucuses get closer.

He added, "Like any election, the closer you get, the more the fire gets turned on."

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