(Bloomberg) -- Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s presidential bid, cut more than $530,000 in reserved time on broadcast television stations in Iowa and New Hampshire on Friday in what the group said was a shift in strategies following the second Republican debate.
At the same time, the political action committee bought $91,165 in time on national conservative television news networks, reaching beyond the first two primary states where it’s put most of its resources, according to data collected by ad tracking company AdImpact. DeSantis, the second highest polling candidate behind Donald Trump, has struggled in the first two debates to stand out as the clear alternative to the former president.
Never Back Down said it was shifting away from broadcast television and into streaming services and online advertisements — ads that are harder to track. The reallocated funds are part of a $25 million ad blitz the super PAC planned for early voting Iowa and New Hampshire this fall.
The changes reflect a routine reassessment of the super PAC’s efforts to reach voters who are willing to look beyond Trump as the Republican nominee, according to a person familiar with the strategy.
That’s been a difficult feat for Trump’s Republican challengers to pull off, as other super PACs have found that ads attacking Trump often end up solidifying his support.
Read more: Anti-Trump Super PAC Says Attack Ads Are Backfiring
Never Back Down attempted to walk that tightrope in a recent ad that contrasts DeSantis to Trump without ever mentioning the former president’s name.
“In 2024 we have a choice,” the ad says. “One man worked his way through Yale and Harvard Law. One did not. One volunteered to serve his nation in wartime. One did not.”
The super PAC also spent about $145,000 in anti-Trump mailers in Iowa this week, according to federal filings.
Polls in early primary states show DeSantis trailing Trump by 33 percentage points in Iowa and 31 percentage points in New Hampshire, according to the RealClearPolitics average. But in national polls — which don’t reflect the state-by-state nature of primary elections but often drive perceptions — DeSantis trails Trump by nearly 44 points.
Super political action committees, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to support federal candidates as long as the message isn’t coordinated with the campaigns, have become the primary driver of an explosion in political ad spending in recent years.
Never Back Down, which is headed by former Trump Homeland Security official Ken Cuccinelli, had $96.8 million in cash on hand in its last public report in July.
“We have to harbor our resources. Everybody does,” Cuccinelli said after Wednesday’s debate in Simi Valley, California. “But we continue to see enthusiasm.”
--With assistance from Hadriana Lowenkron.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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