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Election Politics

Presidential candidate Bloomberg blows past $1 million in El Paso TV ads

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Democrat Mike Bloomberg has spent more than $1.3 million in television advertising in El Paso in an effort to woo voters to his Democratic presidential campaign.

That money has bought him more than 8,100 ad spots since late November on El Paso television stations, according to public filings by the stations with the Federal Communications Commission. That includes only the money he has spent directly with the El Paso stations; it doesn’t include the money he spent to buy advertising on national networks that are then shown in El Paso.

Tom Steyer, another billionaire seeking the Democratic nomination, spent about $40,000 in El Paso TV advertising in November and December. Bernie Sanders began advertising in El Paso on Feb. 10 and has spent about $97,000 so far, filings show. 

Richard Pineda, the chair of the University of Texas at El Paso communications department, said Bloomberg — a billionaire media executive and former New York mayor — is spending “stupid money” in El Paso.

“Certainly what he is spending has blown past any expectation of how local candidates engage media markets, and even previous national candidates. What’s important to remember is this is a ‘hail Mary’ strategy, especially in a place like El Paso,” Pineda said.

Bloomberg is running ads in both English and Spanish in El Paso, as is Sanders. Steyer’s ads were all in English.

The former New York City mayor entered the Democratic presidential contest late last year, months after most other candidates began their campaigns. He has spent more than $344 million on television and digital ads since late November, according to the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. 

Bloomberg is skipping early Democratic contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to focus on the March 3 Super Tuesday primaries, when Texas, California and 12 other states will cast votes.

He is funding his own campaign. Forbes estimates Bloomberg’s net worth at more than $60 billion, making him the world’s eighth-richest person.

Kevin Lovell, who has been general manager of El Paso’s ABC affiliate, KVIA, since 1999, said he has never seen this sort of advertising presence by a presidential candidate. 

He said Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tony Sanchez spent $2 million on El Paso TV ads in his 2002 campaign against Republican Rick Perry. Sanchez won about two-thirds of the El Paso vote but lost statewide by 18 points.

Lovell said Bloomberg’s spending spree hasn’t created a windfall for El Paso TV stations. “I would say it helped partially make up for a weak 4th quarter in the market,” he said.

Bloomberg’s heavy advertising should translate into votes in El Paso, Lovell said. 

“If you equate awareness to support which is a reasonable conclusion, then, yes, Bloomberg’s spending will create more support for him in El Paso,” he said.

UTEP’s Pineda isn’t so sure. The Real Clear Politics average of national polls shows Bloomberg with 7.7 percent support, tying him for fourth place in the Democratic race with former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren currently lead in polling. 

“I think the general trend nationwide is that Bloomberg is a gimmick and he is getting bumps in polls around the country because he is a new factor and all of this money is getting a lot of attention,” he said. “But there are candidates that have been in this for so long at this point but they probably still retain more of the voter momentum. For as much as he is spending, he is not building the infrastructure necessary to make a difference in rallying these primary states.”

El Pasoan Ju Teixera is giving Bloomberg a close look, along with Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Her original Democratic choice, Kamala Harris,dropped out of the race. 

Teixera said she’s impressed by Bloomberg’s record as mayor of New York and believes his self-funding means he’s not beholden to special interests.

“As for those who are so concerned about progressive records, Mike Bloomberg has put his money where his mouth is by supporting initiatives throughout the country to enact sensible gun reform, combat climate change and anti-voter suppression efforts,” she said. “He is also supporting Democratic members of Congress who are in very contested districts and may find themselves vulnerable because they voted to impeach President Trump.” 

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Robert Moore

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986. His work has received a number of top journalism honors including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist and the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award. Moore’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, ProPublica, National Public Radio, The Guardian and other publications. He has been featured as an expert on border issues by CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBC and PBS.

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