On the morning of December 20th, SFA Fund (the super PAC supportive of Nikki Haley’s candidacy for president) aired a new spot that started with the following words: “Of all the Republicans running for president, why is Donald Trump only attacking Nikki Haley?”
That claim seemed out of step with the content of ads hitting the airwaves in Iowa and New Hampshire, most of which seemed more focused on attacking DeSantis than the late-coming UN ambassador. That pushed us to run the numbers and see how much money we’ve seen spent attacking the top three GOP contenders. Here’s what we found.
Nikki Haley has been the target of $11.2M in negative advertising. The top groups targeting her are the pro DeSantis PACs—Never Back Down ($5.4M on 3,831 airings) and Fight Right ($4.5M on 3,474 airings). These 2 groups constitute 88% of the ad spend directed against Nikki Haley.
Vivek 2024 ($679K on 1,448 airings) and Tech Integrity Project ($395K on 384 airings) slot third and fourth in this category while the pro-Trump PAC Make America Great Again has spent a mere $151K on 363 ad airings. The Trump campaign itself has yet to target Nikki Haley in any of its advertising.
Since the beginning of 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis has been attacked with $25.6M in negative advertising with 16,410 spots aired. Make America Great Again has aired $16.4M of this total while the pro-Haley SFA Fund has aired $7.7M. Together, pro-Trump and pro-Haley PACs account for 94% of the negative advertising targeted at DeSantis.
Vivek 2024 is in third place on this list of sponsors attacking Ron DeSantis with $679K in spending while the Trump campaign itself follows right behind with $624K toward attacks against the Florida governor.
Given that he is, by a large margin, the frontrunner for the GOP nom, Donald Trump has been relatively unscathed—the target of just $13.7M in negative advertising. The pro-DeSantis PAC Never Back Down leads the way in this category with $5.1M in spending while the Win It Back PAC is right behind it with $4.7M. Both groups combined represent 71% of the ad spend directed at Donald Trump.
The pro-Haley PAC SFA Fund comes in with a strong anti-Trump buy of $2.3M, followed by pro-Christie PAC Tell It Like It Is ($660K) and pro-Will Hurd Future Leaders Fund ($500K). The DeSantis campaign doesn’t fall into the top five with only $334K spent on ads attacking Trump.
When assessing the aforementioned SFA Fund spot’s claims, Vivvix CMAG can only assume they must not mean TV advertising. Trump’s allies have only spent $124K airing anti-Haley spots over broadcast or national cable. As evidenced by their TV ad buys, Trump and Haley strategists may have concluded that Ron DeSantis is their biggest threat.
This may change if Haley gains on Trump in this primary. At this point, though, the ad spend pattern may lend credence to the rumors that Trump and Haley have held their fire regarding the other’s campaigns because there is an offer on the table for her to be Trump’s VP pick. Only time will tell.
Written by Geoffrey Pereira, Vivvix CMAG