The Iowa caucuses are still two years away, but voters there will see the first campaign ads of the 2020 presidential election during Sunday’s Super Bowl.
John Delaney, the Maryland congressman mounting an uphill bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, plans to run a campaign advertisement touting his bipartisan bona fides on NBC affiliates in Iowa during the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots.
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The Super Bowl spots are the start of an ad blitz by the wealthy Delaney, who has already contributed $660,000 of his own money to his campaign, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission last week. Delaney’s campaign said it will spend $1 million over the next month, though the Super Bowl ad will cost him in the mid-five-figures: A 30-second ad in the state’s largest media market, Des Moines, will run Delaney $20,000, public filings show.
Delaney is joining a handful of 2018 candidates using Super Bowl Sunday — perennially the largest television audience of the year — to introduce themselves to voters, despite the increased cost of advertising.
Another is Jonathan Lamb, a Republican for an open congressional seat in Eastern Indiana. Lamb has his work cut out for him: His opponent is Gregory Pence, Vice President Mike Pence’s brother.
Now he’s putting some of his campaign funds to use on a tongue-in-cheek ad that plays on his last name, hoping it will stick with Republican primary voters who see the spot just before the second half of Sunday’s game. “I’m Jonathan Laaaamb, and I approve this message,” he says.
“Let’s face it … I have a little catch-up to do in the name-recognition department,” Lamb said in an email. “But the Super Bowl will help continue to close that gap. I simply want this race to be about who is the best candidate, not who someone’s brother is.”
The 36-year-old Lamb is mounting a stronger-than-expected challenge, nearly matching Pence’s fundraising in the fourth quarter of last year. Pence brought in $565,000, just a little more than Lamb’s $515,000, according to filing last week.
Political figures have long used the Super Bowl as an advertising opportunity. Two years ago, super PACs backing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) ran ads during the game in New Hampshire and South Carolina, as did Rubio’s campaign.
Down ballot, former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) famously attacked Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in a racially charged Super Bowl spot in 2012 that was criticized by Stabenow’s campaign and Asian-American groups and later pulled by Hoekstra’s campaign.
This year, the controversy over some National Football League players kneeling during the national anthem has changed the calculus for some Republican politicians.
Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), who is running for governor, is airing an ad during the Super Bowl pregame show, urging Tennesseans to stand in their living rooms when the artist Pink sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to kickoff. She’s picking up on a cause that President Donald Trump hammered away at throughout the fall football season.
In the 30-second ad, “Patriotic,” Black, talking directly into the camera, says, “All year, players refuse to stand for the anthem, and the league refused to air an ad from the American veterans, urging everyone to please stand,” referencing the league’s decision not to accept any national ads with political messages.
“But they can’t stop you and me,” the Republican continues as the hashtag “#pleasestand” appears next to Black. “So, tonight, wherever you are watching this game, please stand up for the Star Spangled Banner and join me in standing up for veterans.”
The ads are costing Black’s campaign $40,000, according to Advertising Analytics, a company that tracks media purchases.
The anthem protests are also a flashpoint in the South Carolina gubernatorial race. Incumbent GOP Gov. Henry McMaster issued a proclamation urging residents to stand up from their couches during Pink’s performance. That position is being parroted by a conservative nonprofit group, which has purchased three, 30-second ads in the Greenville market on Sunday. In response to McMaster’s position, Catherine Templeton, McMaster’s primary challenger, tweeted that she wouldn’t even watch the game and “enrich the NFL.”
But other politicians, in both parties, are following a more traditional playbook. Laura Moser, one of four main Democratic candidates seeking to challenge Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), is making a big bet, spending $50,000 on an ad during the fourth quarter on the NBC affiliate in Houston.
In Michigan, Republican Senate hopeful Sandy Pensler, a self-funding businessman, is spending nearly $50,000 on ads during the game. Alaska GOP state Sen. Mike Dunleavy is dropping $15,000 on an ad in Anchorage during the game for his gubernatorial campaign.
Viewers in some Georgia markets will be introduced to Clay Tippins, a businessman and Navy SEAL running for the GOP nomination in the state’s open governor’s race. Tippins is avoiding the pricey Atlanta market, but is spending just under $30,000 on other NBC affiliates in the state on a campaign ad.
Daniel Strauss contributed to this report.