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Ohio airwaves flooded with ads; Who’s winning ad wars?

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Donald Trump reacts as Sen. Marco Rubio speaks during a Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News in Detroit, March 3, 2016. (Richard Perry/The New York Times)

By Jessica Wehrman

Washington Bureau

As the March 15 Ohio presidential primary approaches, the television ad buys in the state are reflecting the direction the two races are taking: both Democrats are buying ads but just two of the four Republicans had purchased air time in the state by early this week.

Billionaire Donald Trump bought nearly $1 million in Ohio, according to sources tracking the television ad buys around the country, while New Day for America — the super PAC supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich — has bought at least $1.2 million since last Thursday with more than $700,000 worth of ads yet to air as of Monday.

Latest ad from Marco Rubio:

Kasich for America, meanwhile, has bought $45,000 on cable and at least $154,000 on broadcast. He will be in the Dayton market on Friday at the Fuyao plant in Moraine.

Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas seem to be focusing their efforts elsewhere as part of their strategy of blocking Trump from getting the 1,237delegates he needs to sew up the nomination before the Republican convention in Cleveland.

Five states are voting March 15, and Ohio is one of the biggest prizes, with the winner taking all 66 delegates. But it’s not the only winner-take-all state voting that day: Florida, with its 99 delegates, will give all of those delegates to that state’s winner.

Latest ad from Donald Trump:

Just as Ohio is a must-win for Kasich, Florida is a must-win for Rubio. Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina also vote March 15, and Cruz is expected to make a bid in those states along with Florida. To date, he has not signaled an intention to spend money in Ohio.

In all, 358 delegates are up for grabs on Tuesday.

On the Democratic end, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week released two 30-second ads in the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton and Youngstown markets. The specific dollar figure for the buy was unavailable, but the campaign said it was a six-figure buy. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is also on the air in markets including Columbus and Dayton.

Sanders is running out of time to close the gap on Clinton, who has a big delegate lead heading into the major haul states. Meanwhile, Trump needs a strong showing in Ohio and Florida if he wants to avoid a contested convention.

Latest ad from John Kasich:

Trump is spending $330,000 in Cleveland; $210,000 in Columbus, $185,000 in Cincinnati and $114,000 in Dayton, with the remainder going to other TV markets scattered around the state. On Saturday, he will be in Cleveland and Dayton for rallies.

New Day for America is reportedly spending $294,000 in Cleveland; $278,000 in Cincinnati, $234,000 in Columbus and $165,000 in Dayton, with the remainder scattered around the state, including broadcast and cable. And Kasich for President is spending all of its money on statewide cable.

“It doesn’t make much sense for Rubio or Cruz to be in there spending money there,” said GOP consultant Charlie Black of Ohio. He said that the state so far looks good for Kasich.

Florida, however, is another story.

“Florida seems to be attracting all the attention,” Black said. “There are millions of dollars worth of anti-Trump ads running down there by several different super-PACs.”

Latest ad from Our Principles PAC:

Our Principles PAC and America’s Future Fund, two political action committees set up last week for the sole purpose of defeating Trump, has yet to buy any airtime in Ohio, but both organizations have bought airtime in Florida, with the latter organization buying in Illinois as well. Our Principles PAC also reportedly has a national buy.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, a Kasich supporter, said the Ohio governor will be spending significant time in the state over the next week. In addition to the ad buys, the state party put Kasich on slate cards sent to party members.

“I think he’s going to win here,” said Borges of Kasich. “It’ll be a close race, but he’ll win.”

Latest ad from A New Day for America:


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