In most of the high-profile swing states, the story was the same. In Ohio, Team Clinton was responsible for about 75 percent of the 79,000 TV ads aired in the race since mid-June, after the primaries had ended.
In North Carolina, Team Clinton was likewise responsible for about three-quarters of the 63,000 presidential race TV ads since mid-June.
And in Pennsylvania, Team Clinton was responsible for nearly three-fourths of the 58,000 or so presidential TV ads that aired there since mid-June.
The only exception: Wisconsin.
In the Badger State, Trump and his allies were responsible for about 60 percent of the roughly 10,000 TV ads aired in the state between June 12 and Nov. 6, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data provided by ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG, with the ad blitz beginning in mid-September.
Clinton, who never visited Wisconsin during the general election, and her allies didn’t air general election TV ad in the state until Oct. 29.
The last time Wisconsin supported a GOP presidential nominee, Ronald Reagan was on the ballot.
Spearheading the Republican push: Diane Hendricks, the richest woman in Wisconsin, who gave nearly $5.5 million to a super PAC that spent millions on ads in her home state, attacking Clinton and Russ Feingold, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. Both lost in Wisconsin on Election Day.
A few big donors began putting real money into ads supporting him in the fall, through a super PAC, Future 45, and a related nonprofit group that does not reveal its donors. Big donors included Adelson and Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade. The two groups together aired more than 9,000 ads, many in Florida.
In addition, Trump far outstripped Clinton in free media, with cable channels carrying his rallies live and his every tweet making news in a race that turned both ugly and personal. “Lock her up,” supporters chanted at rallies, referring to Clinton.
His lean campaign relied heavily on the Republican National Committee’s turnout operation — a strategy that paid off.
Clinton’s big money problem
Big money can backfire as Democrats, who have often fought for dramatic campaign finance reforms, are painfully learning.
The benefits are as significant as they are obvious: a candidate may hire superior staff, purchase more ads and run longer and harder than an opponent.
But the drawbacks proved to be equally profound for Clinton.
Although she routinely decried the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, she became one of its chief beneficiaries by building a massive money-making machine that fully exploited the high court’s ruling.
While she promised to “fight hard to end the stranglehold that the wealthy and special interests have on so much of our government,” her campaign and supportive super PACs solicited huge sums from elite political patrons.
And despite her railing against “secret, unaccountable money in politics,” the super PACs supporting Clinton collected eight-figures worth of money from sources trading in cash that’s tough, if not outrightly impossible, to trace.
Money also couldn’t adequately mask what many voters perceived, fair or not, as Clinton’s damning flaws.
There’s her penchant for secret-keeping, be it delivering private speeches to Wall Street executives or shielding her State Department emails from public scrutiny. And her Clinton Foundation wooing of the ultra-rich and unsavory foreign governments undercut her pledges that she’s represent the interests of who she once half-heartedly (and ham-handedly) described as “everyday Americans.”
Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong challenge to Clinton in the Democrats’ presidential primary was largely fueled by liberals’ reaction against what many considered Clinton’s insincerity on matters of political money and influence.
After Clinton vanquished Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, she never quite captured his supporters’ energy and enthusiasm for her own purposes.