It's getting hard to miss campaign ads in Minnesota

A combination photo of two men.
In this combination of file photos, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on March 12 (left) and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington on April 5. Political parties and outside groups are deploying hundreds of thousands of dollars or more for hard-hitting television ads.

Before long, it will be impossible for Minnesota television viewers to avoid political ads while tuning in to watch the nightly news, catch their favorite sitcom in real-time or keep up with sporting events. 

Political parties and outside groups are going all out in key Minnesota contests, deploying hundreds of thousands of dollars or more for hard-hitting television ads. That’s in addition to the candidates for president, Congress and even state Legislature who are up on air.

The Democratic National Committee joined the fray Wednesday with a new ad using President Donald Trump’s own words on the coronavirus against him. The 30-second spot that is supported by a six-figure purchase of Twin Cities ad time uses snippets of audio from journalist Bob Woodward’s just-published book, “Rage.”

The ad, jointly authorized by Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign, juxtaposes Trump’s public statements about COVID-19 with more sober remarks to Woodward about the virus’s deadliness. America is approaching 200,000 deaths where coronavirus was a contributing cause, with more than 1,900 in Minnesota.

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“You took an oath to protect our citizens, Mr. President,” the ad says. “These deaths are on your hands.”

Biden and Trump are spending considerable money on their own television commercials, although the Republican incumbent scaled back his investment for the current week.

Nationally, Biden has begun to outpace Trump in ads, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, a Connecticut university partnering with the Center for Responsive Politics to analyze ad patterns.

The heavy rotation of presidential ads is just one sign that both parties believe they have a legitimate shot at the state’s 10 electoral votes, which for decades have gone to the Democratic nominee. Both candidates are set to visit the state on Friday — the same day early voting begins.

An outside group calling itself the Restoration Project has been attacking Biden’s integrity, using past controversies about representations he made about his law school standing. It reprises footage from Biden’s unsuccessful 1988 bid for president.

“Joe Biden, unsuited then. Unsuited now,” it ends.

The group is funded by prominent Republican donors, most notably Richard Uihlein of the shipping and supply company Uline. The group is spending at least $630,000 on Minnesota ads running over a couple of weeks, a substantial amount.

Several of the groups are pairing their TV ads with digital pitches that can work their way into voters’ Facebook feeds and Internet browsers.

And it’s not just the presidential race garnering attention and prompting ads.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce waded into the U.S. Senate race this week with a half-million dollar ad push pressuring incumbent Sen. Tina Smith to support loan forgiveness for businesses that got federal coronavirus relief. Another group, the conservative Citizens United Political Victory Fund, is mirroring Republican Senate candidate Jason Lewis’s contrast with Smith on public safety, using images of Minneapolis riots to question her commitment to police. 

The outside entities have one advantage candidates don’t: They can raise unlimited sums of money from donors and routinely land six-figure checks or more. 

But they have a disadvantage, too: Television stations can charge the groups more for the spots they run than they can get from the candidates, who get preferred rates.

For example, the Restoration PAC paid $9,000 to run its 60-second ad during a KARE 11’s evening newscast this week. Biden also aired a minute-long commercial during the same broadcast and paid $1,600.

Several outside groups are gearing up for an October barrage of ads in targeted congressional races in the Twin Cities suburbs, southern Minnesota and western Minnesota. Millions of dollars in time has been booked since spring for the final campaign push.