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So far, Johnson is the only presidential candidate to book broadcast ads in Minnesota

The Libertarian is pushing not necessarily to win votes, but just to have a spot in the debates.

An Ad Age report shows that Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has reserved $122,000 in Minnesota advertising, to be placed on radio.
REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

If Donald Trump is making inroads among Minnesota voters — as his supporters claim — there’s no evidence of that in the form of broadcast political ads.

Trump and Hillary Clinton and the PACs that support them have booked zero dollars in the Minnesota broadcast markets through November 7, according to an analysis by Advertising Age.

The surprise is the presidential candidate that has booked ad time — Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. The Ad Age report shows that Johnson has reserved $122,000 in Minnesota advertising, to be placed on radio. It’s part of a roughly $1.5 million dollar ad buy designed not so much to win votes as to raise Johnson’s profile sufficiently to be included in the presidential debates.

The Johnson spending, though, is a pittance compared to Trump and especially Clinton. As of the end of August, Ad Age estimates that Clinton has reserved $109 million in broadcast ad time; Trump reserved $5 million of the same.  Most of this is targeted to voters in the east and southeast markets with particular focus on Ohio and Pennsylvania. And it will remain that way for the rest of the campaign.

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“We’re such a blue state that we generally don’t see much from the presidential candidates [in any election year],” said Ray Mirabella, sales director for KSTP-TV.  

From a TV sales perspective, the bright spots in the Twin Cities this political year are competitive congressional races. Mirabella says KSTP has taken orders from third district candidates Eric Paulsen and Terri Bonoff, eighth district candidates Stuart Mills and Rick Nolan, and second district candidate Angie Craig. He said he’s expecting Craig’s opponent Jason Lewis to make an ad purchase shortly.

And that’s just the ads placed by the candidates. “The candidate money is substantial but not anywhere near what the PAC money and congressional committee money is,” Mirabella said.

As for the absence of Clinton and Trump ads, they may yet appear on Minnesota broadcast outlets. “The race may be tightening so we may see some presidential ads in the future,” Mirabella said. “And with election on November 8, we have almost a full week more of time to sell than we’ve had in other election years.”

Furthermore, Mirabella notes that political advertising is always unpredictable. “There’s no such thing as normal,” he said.  The political advertising cycle in a highly unusual presidential campaign may just be following suit.