Never Back Down, the super PAC backing Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign, made major additions to its advertising reservations Friday, spending more than $12 million booking airtime in the fall, mostly in Iowa.
According to AdImpact data, the group has spent more than $12.3 million on the new ad buy so far, with most of that – $11.4 million – targeting major Iowa media markets. The group also spent nearly $900,000 on a national buy on Fox News. The reservations are set to start the week of September 6 and run through Halloween.
With the new ad buy, Never Back Down’s total ad spending is up to $31 million, leapfrogging the pro-Trump super PAC, MAGA Inc., for second on the list of top advertisers in the 2024 race. Never Back Down trails only TIM PAC, the pro-Sen. Tim Scott group, which has spent more than $37 million with bookings through January. MAGA Inc. has spent about $22.8 million on advertising.
Coming on the heels of the first presidential primary debate this week, the super PAC’s major new ad buy will look to boost DeSantis as he has struggled to gain ground on the front-runner, former President Donald Trump, months into the race.
The pro-DeSantis group this week also launched ads with a new pitch to voters, working to portray the Florida governor’s personal qualities. Both of the new spots highlight his wife, Casey DeSantis, and her battle with breast cancer, describing the family’s support.
Never Back Down officials confirm that the group will spend a total of $25 million on the new advertising campaign, which will be split between Iowa and New Hampshire and include TV bookings, digital advertising and direct advertising such as mailers and text messages.
According to its most recent FEC report, Never Back Down had $96.8 million in cash on hand at the end of June – a massive war chest, helped by an infusion of more than $80 million from DeSantis’ fundraising as Florida governor.
The super PAC has shouldered a significant share of the Florida governor’s messaging operation. DeSantis’ own campaign, strapped for cash, has spent comparatively little on advertising – $1.3 million – while his allied super PAC, with its latest buys, has spent more than $31 million, according to AdImpact data.
And the group’s messaging has evolved over the course of the campaign. Upon its launch, Never Back Down’s ads leaned into culture war debates surrounding Disney and Bud Light, and featured clips of praise from Tucker Carlson and soundbites of DeSantis confronting opponents.
And more recently, the group produced a pair of ads highlighting the Florida governor’s military experience, part of a sustained effort to introduce his biography to voters.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden began this week to blanket the airwaves with a $25 million television and digital ad campaign, which will include forthcoming ads running for 16 weeks on broadcast and cable television in battleground states.
And, looking to capitalize on Vivek Ramaswamy’s performance in this week’s debate, a super PAC backing the entrepreneur, American Exceptionalism PAC, launched two new TV ads this week. American Exceptionalism PAC has spent about $850,000 on advertising and has recently ramped up its activity, according to AdImpact data.
Overall, Republican outside groups have combined to spend more than $108 million on advertising in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, including future reservations, with the top groups backing Trump, DeSantis and Scott.
CNN’s Kit Maher contributed to this report.