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November 28, 2023

Longshot GOP presidential candidates boost spending ahead of debate deadline

Longshot GOP presidential candidates boost spending ahead of debate deadline

By Bridget Bowman

Republican presidential hopefuls making longshot bids for the White House are stepping up their ad spending as they hope to make next week’s debate stage.

Three candidates — businessman Perry Johnson, conservative talk radio host Larry Elder and Ryan Binkley, a pastor and entrepreneur — each spent at least $100,000 on the airwaves last week, according to spending data from the ad tracking firm AdImpact.

None these candidates qualified for the first debate last month. And so far, they appear on the verge of falling short of meeting the Republican National Committee’s requirements for the second debate.

“The RNC is scared because they know I will talk about difficult issues: the epidemic of fatherlessness, my proposal to fire George Soros-backed DAs and the lie that America is systemically racist. To make the debate stage in September, I need your help,” Elder said directly into the camera in an ad that aired last week.

Elder increased his ad spending tenfold compared to previous week, dropping $163,000 on the airwaves from Sept. 11 through Sept. 17. The spending includes broadcast ads in markets across the country, including Miami, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Philadelphia.

Johnson’s campaign spent $458,000 on the airwaves over the same period, roughly quadrupling his ad spending from the previous week. That spending was the second-highest for a GOP candidate, falling just behind South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott’s campaign.

Binkley spent $202,000 on ads last week, after spending just $1,100 the week prior.

Almost all of Johnson and Binkley’s ad spending over the last week has been focused on national cable networks, which could be a sign that they’re hoping to reach the polling threshold in last-minute national surveys.

To qualify for the debate, candidates must hit 3% in two national polls conducted after Aug. 1, or in one national survey and two polls in two different early primary states.

So far, none of these three candidates have hit those marks in polls that appear to meet the RNC’s standards, according to an NBC News Political Unit analysis.

Johnson and Binkley have said they have met the RNC’s minimum donor threshold of 50,000 unique donors for the second debate.

Candidates have until the evening of Sept. 25 to meet the debate requirements.

Bridget Bowman

Bridget Bowman is a deputy editor for NBC’s Political Unit. 

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