Biden Spending Heavily to Defend Battlegrounds Democrats Won in 2016

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden joined by his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., replaces his face mask after speaking at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is spending heavily on ads to fortify his standing in battleground states that Democrats won in 2016.

Biden’s team signaled over the weekend that it was moving up the start of its television ad campaign in Minnesota after protests racked the Minneapolis region following the shooting of Jacob Blake. Originally, the Democrat nominee’s campaign had planned to go on air in Minnesota on September 8. The decision, however, changed as the Republican Nation Convention and mounting concerns over continuing social unrest in America’s cities saw a boost in support for President Donald Trump.

Recent polling indicates that the president has narrowed Biden’s lead in the state, especially among suburban and blue-collar voters. Trump’s effort with the latter has been buoyed by the endorsement of six Democrat mayors from Minnesota’s Iron Range. The region, which borders Canada and Wisconsin, has generally favored Democrats for generations but is increasingly swinging toward the GOP. In 2016, the region was instrumental to Trump’s performance across Minnesota, a state he only lost by less than 45,000 votes out of more than 2.6 million.

“It’s tightening up,” Ken Martin, the chair of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, told Politico last week when discussing the 2020 race. “But I wouldn’t trade our position with theirs in a million years.”

Further illustrating the point, a Morning Consult poll released on Tuesday showed Biden only leading Trump by three percentage points in Minnesota. The poll’s release coincided with an announcement by the Biden campaign that it would begin airing Spanish-language ads in the Minneapolis region to build enthusiasm among Latino voters, a constituency which with the former vice president continues to struggle.

Similarly, Biden’s campaign plans to spend heavily on ads in other battlegrounds that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but appear to be secure, at least on paper, for Democrats. Last month, the Democrat nominee’s campaign announced that it was launching the largest ad buy in presidential history by reserving $280 million across television and digital markets for the general election.

Topping the list of the 15 jurisdictions being targeted were not only swing states, such as Pennsylvania and Florida, but also states like Colorado and Virginia. Biden’s investment in both was surprising given that Clinton won them handily in 2016 and Democrats have performed strongly in state and local races since. As the campaign is not set to start ads in either state until early October, the fact they are on the radar seems to imply a defensive posture to some political observers.

The Biden campaign did not return requests for comment on this story.

In recent weeks, the presidential race appears to have tightened as protests, spawned by Blake’s shooting and more broadly against police brutality and racial injustice, have turned violent across the country. The situation, in particular, has escalated not only in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Blake was shot, but also in cities like Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The unrest, marked by rioting and looting in some cases, has raised concerns among Democrat strategists that a backlash against Biden and the party could be brewing among suburban and swing voters.

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