Donald Trump

Donald Trump has not taken independent expenditure money and does not have the kind of war chest typical for a general election campaign. Above, Trump in Rome, N.Y., earlier this month. (Mike Groll / AP)

Stephen Battaglio
April 14, 2016

GOP bigwigs aren’t the only ones worried about Donald Trump winning the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump has emerged as the Republican candidate to beat while spending far less on television advertising than his rivals, a source of anxiety for TV station owners across the country who are banking on a record level of political ad spending. It’s a novel campaign strategy of generating free TV coverage with ever more outlandish events and statements.

His approach has made a mockery of his opponents’ traditional approach of spending prodigious amounts on TV ad campaigns. Indeed, their spending this year — and a 2010 Supreme Court decision that opened up campaign spending — has boosted projected political TV revenue in 2016 to a new high point, reaching $4.4 billion, up from $3.8 billion in 2012.

But while local TV stations have been distressed over Trump’s lack of ad spending, some industry analysts think the situation now may change in the general election.

So much negative advertising — from both Republicans and Democrats — has cast Trump as a political loser that some observers say he now might have to ramp up his own advertising to counter the attacks.

Independent “Stop Trump” groups have spent more than $20 million in opposition to his nomination.

Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, believes that Trump will have to step up TV advertising in a general election campaign against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

“They both have 100% name ID and voters have a sense of who they are,” Sabato said. “They don’t have to advertise in ways that other candidates do. They are not going to have to tell the family story. It’s pointless. They will still need negative advertising. The campaign is going to be scorched-earth.”

Trump brings an unpredictability to campaign spending — and that includes a possible increase in dollars from the Republican Party in support of Senate and House candidates fearful of being pulled down by a crushing loss at the presidential level. Trump is shown running behind Clinton.

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