In the earliest phase of her air war against Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has placed her biggest bets on Orlando, Denver, and Raleigh.
Those three markets in battleground states are where the Democratic presidential candidate has most heavily run her first wave of general-election broadcast television ads, a Bloomberg Politics analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data shows.
The review also shows how the top super-PAC backing her, Priorities USA, is allowing her to conserve resources by covering certain markets almost entirely for her.
In Nevada, for example, Clinton has run just three spots during the past two weeks in Las Vegas, as compared to the 502 spots the campaign has aired in the cheaper market of Reno. The heavy lifting in Las Vegas has been left to Priorities USA, which has run 380 spots.
The data offers a first glimpse into Clinton's general-election advertising strategy, as well as her campaign's view of the 2016 Electoral College map. It stands in stark contrast to the advertising-free approach of her Republican rival.
“Advertising is reality,” said Ken Goldstein, a University of San Francisco professor who is a Bloomberg Politics polling and advertising analyst. “Campaigns can talk about states being competitive or not competitive, but where they put their TV dollars reveals what they really think.”
Campaigns sometimes test their ads in less expensive markets before venturing into more expensive ones, so that could explain why Clinton hasn't yet advertised in certain areas within the battleground states, Goldstein said.
The Clinton campaign advertising shows no signs of tapering off. Among some of her bigger advertising reservations set to air during the first two weeks of July are $2.7 million on national cable and satellite television targeting specific markets and states, $1.1 million in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market and $853,000 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Clinton's July advertising in Charlotte will roughly coincide with a joint appearance she's scheduled to make there next week with President Barack Obama.
On Friday, Clinton's campaign said she raised more than $68.5 million in June, including about $28 million for a joint fundraising effort with the Democratic National Committee that will benefit her presidential bid as well as party organizational efforts nationally. Her campaign said it started July with more than $44 million in the bank.
Leveraging her fundraising advantage, Clinton ran almost 10,000 spots in first 12 days of her advertising buy, broadcasting in more than two dozen markets that cover nine battleground states. Trump didn't run a single ad during the period.
The 9,781 ads that Clinton ran from June 15-27 cost an estimated $6 million, or about $500,000 a day, and were broadcast in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. They were all essentially biographical spots reintroducing her to voters.
Trump has dismissed such efforts—and associated spending—as something he doesn't need to win the White House. “I don't even need commercials, if you want to know the truth,” he said Wednesday in Maine.
Clinton didn't start advertising in Orlando until June 21, perhaps holding back until time had passed following the June 12 shooting massacre there that left 49 victims dead.
Still, the central Florida market has been the single place where she's run the most ads so far, 809. Orlando is part of the “I-4 corridor” that follows an interstate highway stretching from Tampa Bay to Daytona Beach and voters there often decide whether statewide elections in Florida are won or lost.
Denver saw 777 broadcast television spots from Clinton during the period, followed by Raleigh at 649.
On Thursday, Clinton's campaign said it was expanding its current “eight-figure” television buy to include Nebraska's Second Congressional District, which encompasses Omaha and its suburbs. The area has a greater share of Democrats and black voters than the Republican-leaning state as a whole. Obama won the district on his way to the White House in 2008.
Unlike most states, Nebraska awards its electoral votes by congressional district. Advertising in the market carries the added advantage of also bleeding into the western part of Iowa, a battleground state.
So far, Clinton's ads have run most commonly on ABC-affiliate stations (2,545), followed by NBC (2,403), CBS (1,906), and Fox (1,652).
The roughly $1 million Clinton's campaign spent on Orlando television from June 19-26 is significantly more than the $682,000 Obama spent exactly four years earlier as an incumbent president seeking re-election.
Obama's campaign spent $456,000 in Las Vegas during the same period four years ago, while Clinton has spent virtually nothing there because of the assistance from Priorities USA.
The group plans at least $158 million in digital, television, and radio advertising through Election Day, including $10.5 million for advertising in Pennsylvania that it announced in the past week. The super-PAC raised more than $88 million through the end of May and says it has $45 million more in commitments.
“Donald Trump is too divisive and dangerous to ever be president of the United States and Priorities is committed to aggressively taking the fight to him every day until we elect Hillary Clinton president,” Justin Barasky, the group's spokesman, said in a statement.