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2024 Republican Primary, (Pre) Post-Mortem
February 6, 20244 min read

2024 Republican Primary, (Pre) Post-Mortem

Although the Republican primary for the 2024 presidential election is not yet over, Republicans hoping to move on from Donald Trump are running out of opportunities to avoid his candidacy for a third straight election.   

Looking back at the past 13 months of presidential TV advertising, Vivvix CMAG can discern which ad messaging strategies were effective and which were not. 

As has often been the case in past elections, political action committees (PACs) did most of the heavy lifting in the ad war. Looking below, we can see the top five issues that had the most TV (broadcast and national cable) ad dollars behind them for each PAC from 01/01/23 through the end of January 2024. 


SFA Fund (pro-Haley) 

1) International Affairs – $19.7M 

2) Anti-DeSantis – $17.6M 

3) Anti-Biden – $14.5M 

4) International Affairs: China - $13M 

5) Budget/Gov’t Spending – $10.7M 


Make America Great Again (pro-Trump) 

1) Pro-Trump – $22.9M 

2) Anti-DeSantis – $19.3M 

3) Anti-Biden – $13.4M 

4) Immigration – $10.2M 

5) Healthcare: Medicare – $10M 

5) Social Security – $10M 


Never Back Down (pro-DeSantis)

1) Pro-DeSantis – $23.9M 

2) COVID-19 – $10.5M 

3) Education – $8.7M 

4) Voting: 2020 Election – $6.1M 

5) Anti-Biden – $6M 


Fight Right (pro-DeSantis)

1) International Affairs: China - $3.7M 

2) Anti-Clinton – $3.6M 

3) Taxes – $3M 

4) Immigration – $1.89M 

5) Budget/Gov’t Spending – $1.88M 


The takeaways here? It’s to be expected that they all attacked Joe Biden to prove their conservative bona fides in a GOP primary, but—as we have previously documented—Haley and Trump’s backers were united in common purpose i.e. the destruction of the DeSantis candidacy.  

While DeSantis’ backers spent $6.7M attacking Trump, $13.5M attacking Haley, and $3.6M attacking Hillary Clinton, MAGA PAC and SFA Fund spent a combined $37M attacking DeSantis. 

SFA Fund’s priorities were international affairs related to China and appeals to fiscal conservatism. The two pro-DeSantis PACs prioritized COVID-19 policies and concerns Republicans have regarding public school curricula with head nods towards government spending and onerous taxation levels. 

The most interesting fact is that the Trump-supporting MAGA PAC dedicated $20M toward ad spend focusing on protecting Social Security and Medicare. These are two historical Democratic party strengths that typically figure into Republican primaries only insofar as there are calls for reforming those programs to shore up their long-term fiscal viability. The ads in question attacked efforts to modify them.  

Immigration was featured prominently in their ad spend too, which is unsurprising given that the issue was his 2016 springboard and it ranks highly with GOP voters. 

Though not spending as prolifically as their associated PACs, the candidate’s campaigns themselves echoed many of the same themes. Nikki Haley pushed China as a looming threat on the horizon and pledged to cut down on illegal immigration.  

Ron DeSantis highlighted his performance as Florida governor in addition to pledging to cut down on illegal immigration and improve the nation’s infrastructure and economy.  

This all while Donald Trump talked up the successes of his presidency and assured seniors that he would protect their retirement benefits. 


Nikki Haley for President 

1) Anti-Biden – $4M 

2) Immigration – $3M 

3) International Affairs: China – $2.4M 

4) Anti-Trump – $1.8M 

5) Economy – $1.6M 


Donald J. Trump for President 2024, Inc. 

1) Pro-Trump – $6.8M 

2) Anti-Biden – $5.4M 

3) 50+ Voters – $2.6M 

3) Retirement – $2.6M 

4) Immigration – $2.1M 

5) Terrorism – $1.9M 


Ron DeSantis for President 

1) Pro-DeSantis – $1.5M 

2) Immigration – $889K 

3) Anti-Trump – $513K 

4) Anti-Biden – $351K 

4) International Affairs – $351K 

4) Transportation/Infrastructure – $351K 

5) Economy – $344K 


Looking at the data, there are two salient points: One is that if ad strategy is a reflection of big donor influence, it’s clear that many of them were certain they didn’t want Ron DeSantis to be president.  

The other is that Donald Trump felt so comfortable with his lead in the polls (and now, victories, in IA and NH) that he is running as a de facto incumbent and has already pivoted to general election messaging. He is running on traditionally Democratic party issues such as the sanctity of Medicare, social security, and retirement security for older Americans.  

Immigration remains a salient issue, but it’s not at the forefront of political advertising at this time. As the months get warmer and the general election heats up, Vivvix CMAG can speculate that immigration will overtake the above-mentioned issues as immigration policy is the most marked difference between Trump and Biden. Historically, voters trust the Democrats more on healthcare and social programs than they do Republicans.  

Polling indicates immigration is a weak point for Biden as well, but it will be interesting to see what a considerable Democrat war chest has in store for its opponent this fall.