PAC-Funded Ads Will Give Rubio & Bush Plenty of Pre-Primary Face Time

Dec 1, 2015

A Super PAC supporting Marco Rubio has launched a new television ad campaign in New Hampshire.

Compared to some of his rivals, Marco Rubio hasn’t been seen much in the Granite State, either in person or on TV.

That’s about to change.

After biding its time for the last six months, a pro-Rubio Super PAC launched its first local television ad Tuesday morning. The group, Conservative Solutions PAC, plans to spend more than $3.4 million on New Hampshire and Boston stations before the February primary. Rubio’s campaign has reserved another $1.8 million worth of ad slots, most of them on WMUR-TV.

The new spending comes at an opportune time for Rubio, who campaigned in New Hampshire on Monday for the first time in several weeks and is expected back Friday. Buoyed by his performances in two Republican debates, Rubio’s support among likely voters here has been slowly, but steadily rising. According to a recent poll from Suffolk University, 11 percent of likely New Hampshire voters support Rubio, up from less than 7 percent in June.

The ad campaign could also become the latest front in the simmering rivalry between Rubio and fellow Floridian Jeb Bush. A pro-Bush Super PAC, Right to Rise, has accounted for roughly one in four ads by Republican contenders and outside groups. According to a New York Times report, the group is planning to spend $20 million attacking Rubio on TV.

Rubio hasn’t been a total stranger on New Hampshire airwaves. A non-profit “social welfare” group called Conservative Solutions Project, which has close ties to the Conservative Solutions PAC, spent roughly $1.6 million on local TV ads from early September to just before Thanksgiving.  Those so-called issue ads focused largely on foreign policy, including Rubio’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.

Spending on political ads from December 1 through the New Hampshire Primary will be dominated by Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and their Super PACs. Source: FCC contracts and invoices for New Hampshire and selected Boston network affiliates.
Credit Sara Plourde for NHPR

  The new 30-second spot, titled “Marco,” is an attempt to color Rubio as a more dynamic alternative to his rivals and less embedded with – and more conservative than - the Republican establishment.

“Now the time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American century,” Rubio says in a clip from a speech, before the narrator closes the ad: “Don’t just send the establishment a message. Send them a conservative president.”

Whether the ads further Rubio’s momentum is difficult to predict. But it hasn’t worked for Jeb Bush, whose supporters at Right to Rise have spent more than anyone on New Hampshire and Boston television – almost $10 million - with no measurable return on the investment. Bush’s standing in the polls has averaged 7.5 percent among likely New Hampshire voters, according to Real Clear Politics, and a recent “re-boot” of his campaign has failed to generate much new enthusiasm.

Nonetheless, Right to Rise is poised to keep pace with Conservative Solutions PAC from now through the primary, tentatively scheduled for February 9.

The pro-Bush group has reserved more than $3.4 million in ads on New Hampshire and Boston stations, while Bush’s campaign plans to spend an additional $1 million.

Indeed, while the numbers are destined to change, they show Bush and Rubio dominating the commercial breaks on local TV leading up to the New Hampshire Primary. Starting December 1, the two candidates and their backers have plans to spend $9.6 million on more than 5,000 ads – or more than 80 percent of the ad spots currently reserved.