Bloomberg makes initial ad buy in Florida, targets Trump's pandemic response

By Alex Roarty, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON - Michael Bloomberg is starting to put his money where his mouth is.

Aides to the Democratic billionaire said Thursday that Bloomberg will spend $5.4 million on a weeklong TV ad campaign in Florida, part of his pledge to help Joe Biden win the all-important presidential battleground state.

The ads will begin airing this weekend on broadcast TV in all 10 of the state's media markets, aides said, and will criticize President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Less than a week ago, Bloomberg made a surprise announcement that he would spend $100 million in the state to help Biden, a gargantuan sum that political analysts say could provide a crucial boost for the Democratic presidential nominee in a state that polls show is highly competitive.

This weekend's ads are just the beginning of that campaign, say aides, who expect the former mayor of New York City will announce new campaigns in the state each week, from now until Election Day in November. Bloomberg officials said that includes a special focus on ads aimed toward Latino and Black voters, including Spanish-language ads that will also begin airing in the coming days.

"We're going to be up every week and every day through the election in general market television," said Kevin Sheekey, a senior Bloomberg adviser.

Bloomberg ran against Biden for the Democratic nomination earlier this year, but his campaign failed to gain traction despite the billionaire spending heavily out of his own personal fortune to promote his bid. He ended his candidacy in March but pledged to help Democrats defeat Trump.

Bloomberg will fund the ads through the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, a group that has already spent more than $10 million working against Trump in the state. The ad set to go out this weekend is an updated version of a spot the super PAC ran earlier this year, showing a running graph of the number of deaths nationwide attributed to COVID-19 while playing Trump quotes that downplayed the severity of the pandemic.


Bloomberg decided to fund the Priorities ad after testing a range of messages and finding that it performed the best with voters. Sheekey said over the next six weeks, the former mayor is considering creating original ads and paying for spots developed by other Democratic groups.

Bloomberg aides said that in addition to Priorities, they also plan to partner with the Latino Victory Fund to maximize outreach to Latinos in the state.

The senior adviser said that Bloomberg is focusing on Florida because without its 29 electoral votes, Trump's hopes of winning re-election would be severely diminished. And a heavy investment in the state could also force Republicans to siphon resources from other key presidential battlegrounds, like Pennsylvania.

But Sheekey added that because Florida is expected to tabulate its votes faster than other states, many of which are expecting to receive absentee ballots at a much larger scale than previous elections, Bloomberg wants to win Florida because it would make clear on the night of the election that Biden won, even if tallies in other states stretch into the following day.

"It is also our hope that we're able to win the state, which in our view will allow Joe Biden to declare victory on the night of the election and keep Donald Trump from other attempts at tearing this country apart," Sheekey said.

Bloomberg officials also said that they are in talks with Desmond Meade, who spearheaded Florida's Amendment 4 initiative to restore voting rights to felons, to help him with his efforts in time for the election.

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