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Club for Growth is backing its March 23 endorsement of Republican Ted Cruz with serious ad spending. Within the past week, the anti-tax group has plunked down more than $1 million for digital and TV ads to back Mr. Cruz in the April 5 Wisconsin primary. The main message: A vote for Mr. Cruz is the only way to defeat Donald Trump.
"Only Ted Cruz can beat Donald Trump," a male voiceover says in a new Club for Growth spot titled "Math." The ad uses classroom chalkboard imagery to argue that the delegate counts so far mean voting for Ohio Governor John Kasich -- the only remaining GOP candidate other than Mr. Cruz or Mr. Trump -- will only help Mr. Trump.
"John Kasich can't do it. The math won't work," notes the ad, which shows Mr. Trump at 739 delegates, Mr. Cruz at 465 and Mr. Kasich at 143. "A vote for Kasich actually helps Trump by dividing the opposition. It's time to put differences aside. To stop Trump vote for Cruz."
Politico's Delegate Tracker reports the same delegate numbers for the candidates. It remains unclear what will become of the 171 delegates gathered by Marco Rubio, now out of the race.
Ad Age reported last week that anti-Trump advertising had stalled out, based on numbers through March 24. The Club for Growth outlay suggests that may have only been a slowdown or lull.
Club for Growth, which also supported Mr. Cruz's 2012 senate bid, spent $863,000 on TV ads and $150,000 on digital ads aimed at Wisconsin voters, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Red Sea is handling the TV ads and buys, while the digital work has been split by Bask Digital Media and FatLab, FEC data shows.
Data from Kantar Media's CMAG breaks down the buys further, showing that since the week of March 22, Club for Growth spent $498,000 of its $1 million buy on broadcast TV, $298,000 on cable and $70,000 on satellite spots, mainly in Wisconsin. A small portion was aimed at Utah voters, according to CMAG. It is possible that those satellite TV ads might be targeted to specific households via set-top boxes.
The entire TV buy appears to be dedicated to running the "Math" spot in Wisconsin, according to the FEC data.
Neither the "Math" commercial nor the digital display ads accompanying them include any positive messaging in support of Mr. Cruz. Rather, they focus on bashing Mr. Trump, declaring that he is "just another politician," "has a liberal record," and "picks on workers and widows."
According to digital ad tracker Moat Pro, Club for Growth also ran ads this month on Forbes proclaiming, "We must stop Trump. It's not too late." Ads placed above the fold on DrudgeReport.com said "Trump hides behind bankruptcy and kills American jobs."