Clinton ad buys triple Trump's in Eastern Iowa TV market

Grassley, ahead of Judge by double digits, may be advertising to deter future challengers

Screenshot of an ad for Hillary Clinton, 2016
Screenshot of an ad for Hillary Clinton, 2016

If it feels like you’ve seen a lot of Hillary Clinton commercials during this presidential race, it’s because you have.

The Democratic presidential candidate and her surrogates have run 2,661 television ads in the Cedar Rapids/Waterloo/Dubuque TV market between Aug. 23 and last Wednesday — more than three times as many ads as Republican rival Donald Trump, who has run 754.

“She has a lot of money for advertising,” said Dianne Bystrom, director of Iowa State University’s Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics. “She’s able to advertise in Iowa and some of these other states that have always been big red states.”

FiveThirtyEight.com’s Election Day forecast, which weights 52 polls based on sample size, methodology and recency, on Friday gave Clinton a slim advantage in winning Iowa’s six electoral votes Nov. 8.

How many ads?

Presidential and U.S. Senate candidates, along with PACS weighing in on these races, bought 4,723 spots in the Eastern Iowa TV market to air Aug. 23-Oct. 26, according to the Political TV Ad Archive, a project of the Internet Archive.

The Gazette reviewed data from July 1 on, but the ads did not start airing until late August.

The Internet Archive used computer software to match unique audio fingerprints of political ads with the stream of shows from television stations to see how often the ads aired.

The new approach reveals the tone of political commercials, which TV shows had the most ads — hint: the host of one show loves the phrase “get real” — and includes web links to all the ads.

“This is a tremendous resource,” Bystrom said of the database.


Clinton vs. Trump

Hillary for America ran 2,000 ads between Aug. 23-Oct. 26, with half negative in tone, 34 percent positive and 16 percent mixed.

The single ad Clinton ran more than any other, 286 times, was the 30-second “Children” ad showing her through the decades talking about her work for children and ending with the tagline, “I’m Hillary Clinton and I’ve always approved this message.”

The next most-run ad for Clinton in Eastern Iowa was “Mirrors,” which juxtaposes images of tween girls looking in mirrors with Trump’s comments about women’s bodies.

Trump’s 754 Eastern Iowa ads were 38 percent positive, 36 percent mixed tone and 26 percent negative.

His most-run ad, aired 248 times since it was released Aug. 29, starts with scenes from “Hillary Clinton’s America,” in which Trump says taxes go up and jobs disappear. Then the ad turns positive and talks about “Donald Trump’s America” where he says wages go up and new jobs are created.

Trump aired another ad 171 times, released Sept. 30, that attacked Clinton for mishandling classified emails and using the word “deplorables” to describe some of Trump’s supporters.

Grassley vs. Judge

Veteran U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley has a double-digit lead over his opponent, Democrat Patty Judge, but still he ran more than four times as many Eastern Iowa TV ads, the Political TV Ad Archive reported.

“They could be trying to send a long-term signal that he’s a tough Republican to beat,” said Chris Larimer, an associate political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa. “When incumbents win big, it deters challengers next time around.”


Among Grassley’s 970 spots, he ran one commercial 210 times. This ad, voiced by Grassley’s wife, Barbara, shows the 83-year-old senator’s busy day, complete with jogging, meeting people and doing pushups in a Des Moines TV studio.

Judge had 218 spots total, with the most frequent ad showing people asking questions of a cardboard cutout of Grassley. “The Senate is broken. Why are you leading all the obstruction?” one man asks.

Judge has been hammering Grassley since last spring for his refusal to let the Senate Judiciary Committee hold a hearing on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

Tone and audience

Overall, the largest share, 44 percent, of presidential and Senate ads airing Aug. 23-Oct. 26 in Eastern Iowa were negative — which isn’t surprising because negative ads have proved to be more effective.

Thirty-six percent of the ads were positive in tone and 20 percent were mixed.

More than half the Eastern Iowa political ads during this period ran during news shows, but sitcom “Two and Half Men,” was a popular show for campaign ads, as were “Dr. Phil,” hosted by an Oprah-favorite who often advises guests to “get real,” “Judge Judy” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

National ad trackers predict political spending on local TV stations will be down in 2016 because Trump just hasn’t bought ads like past candidates, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“There’s still enough that they (Americans) are overwhelmed by it,” Larimer said. “If it’s not on TV it’s on social media. The average voter would still say they’ve been inundated even if there is numerically fewer ads.”


Ads that were scheduled to air between Aug. 23 and Oct. 26 in Cedar Rapids/Waterloo/Dubuque TV market.

Hillary for America: 2,000

Grassley Cmte: 970

Donald J. Trump For President: 754

Priorities USA Action (Clinton): 661

Patty Judge for Iowa: 218

Source: Political TV Ad Archive

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