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Donald Trump ads still missing from N.H. airwaves

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Donald Trump spoke Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.Gerald Herbert

WASHINGTON — As Donald Trump begins trying to make up lost ground by finally airing television ads in battleground states this month, the Republican nominee so far has left out one key state: New Hampshire, the place that gave him his first primary victory.

The lack of advertising — in money already spent and in ads reserved between now and Election Day — puts Trump at a significant disadvantage in the battle for the airwaves. Hillary Clinton's campaign has spent and reserved at least $1.1 million on Manchester-based WMUR-TV, the state's largest station, according to a Globe review of documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission.


Some New Hampshire Republican strategists say that the large disparity illustrates the Trump campaign's lack of organization and ground game as it transitions to a general election campaign that promises to be a sprint from Labor Day through Election Day, Nov. 8. It is especially risky for Trump to be lagging in New Hampshire, a key swing state that could prove crucial if the national race is tight in November.

"His lack of advertising is more a manifestation of a lack of overall strategy than a deliberate choice," said Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party who does not support Trump. "There are state Senate campaigns in New Hampshire with more sophistication than the Trump for president campaign. The fact they won our primary is the political equivalent of the rooster taking credit for the sun rising."

A spokesman for Trump's campaign said Monday that it soon plans to take out ads in New Hampshire, but would not say for how much except that the Granite State will be part of a nine-state ad buy worth $10 million.

WMUR's filings do not indicate any ad purchases so far.

Clinton, on the other hand, is already bombarding the state with ads — and not just on traditional broadcast television, Cullen said. He is frequently confronted with 30-second Clinton commercials when he streams music on Pandora and experienced the same when he recently watched the Olympics via Internet streaming.


"They're clearly doing advertising that is below the radar screen as well as whatever they are doing on broadcast," Cullen said. "That's a sign of the sophistication of their campaign, especially compared to Trump."

Clinton has spent about $600,000 since June and plans to air at least $500,000 more worth of ads on WMUR over the two months remaining before the election.

Clinton's more robust New Hampshire ground game also includes a larger staff. Trump hired most of his staff of 15 in recent weeks, whereas Clinton has 10 people working in just the Seacoast alone, a local Clinton campaign aide told the Globe.

Trump ran an unconventional primary campaign, too, dispatching with many of the norms of the New Hampshire primary by holding big rallies and then leaving town rather than lingering in living rooms and diners for face-to-face meetings with voters. Trump's supporters are again saying they will buck the norm, touting the campaign's strategy of timing its spending wisely.

Al Baldasaro, a Republican state representative who co-chairs Trump's veterans' coalition in New Hampshire, praised Trump's savvy decision not to advertise in his state until after Labor Day.

"That's why he's a smart businessman," Baldasaro said. "Let Hillary blow out her money. Here in New Hampshire, people are on vacation. They're at the beaches. They're not paying any attention to politics."


Campaign advertising analysts say such late spending in New Hampshire is unusual, adding though that it's not too late to sway voter opinion. Trump lags nearly 10 points behind Clinton in the state, according to a Real Clear Politics polling average.

"In the modern campaign era, to not have put up a reasonable presence on broadcast TV is unprecedented," said Steve Passwaiter, the vice president and general manager of Kantar Media/CMAG, which monitors political ad spending. "The fact he's doing it so late is very, very, very unusual, but he still has time to make his pitch and try to make a dent in her lead."

Passwaiter noted that Trump spent a little over $4 million in television ads in New Hampshire during the primary season, second only to Florida, which has many more media markets.

The last time Trump had an ad airing in New Hampshire was Feb. 9.

Travis Ridout, codirector of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks and analyzes political television ads, said the effects of advertising generally wane after a few weeks, so Trump should not be at a disadvantage as long as he and Clinton are evenly on the air with ads in October.

But, Ridout said, it will be difficult for advertising alone to make up Trump's polling deficit in New Hampshire.

"Advertising in a presidential race can matter on the margins, maybe two, three percentage points," he said — not 10.


The Clinton campaign scoffed at the possibility that Trump's new airing of ads could dent her lead.

"The concerns Granite State voters have about Donald Trump can't be fixed by his new, misleading, television ad," said Victor Reyes, a Clinton campaign spokesman in New Hampshire.

Since winning the primary and entering the general election, Trump has gone months without spending any money on television ads. It was a risky strategy that caused many Republicans heartburn, with Clinton branding him early and often in the swing states.

Only recently has Trump started to spend money on ads.

Trump's campaign earlier this month had reserved about $5 million worth of ads in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that focus, in part, on security at the border and the perils of illegal immigration. (Clinton's campaign has spent more than $77 million on television and radio ads so far.)

Trump's super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, is also spending $10 million — but not in New Hampshire.

Clinton's super PAC, Priorities USA, has spent and reserved at least $4.4 million on New Hampshire's WMUR-TV alone, according to the Globe analysis of FCC documents.

Trump's next planned commercial, first reported Monday by the Associated Press, will focus on contrasting Trump's economic policy to Clinton's. He portrays a middle class getting crushed under Clinton's America, where he alleges that taxes and spending will go up and jobs will disappear.

In addition to New Hampshire, the ad will run in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Virginia, and Colorado.


"With Hillary Clinton off the campaign trail yet again this week and continuing to take many communities' votes for granted, we see this as the right time to show voters the benefits of an American economy under the leadership of Mr. Trump," said Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, in a statement.

Tracy Jan can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @TracyJan.