There was a willful suspension among GOP candidates of Reagan’s famous 11th Commandment, the one commanding Republicans not to attack a fellow Republicans, in the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses. Nearly $2 million was spent on opposition ads for many of 2016’s leading contenders. We calculated the total amount spent on negative television advertisements targeting each candidate.
As it turns out, Donald Trump wore the biggest target on his back, having $1.4M spent by various group on TV ads against his nomination bid. This may have played a crucial role in his second place showing, nearly four percentage points behind the caucus winner, Ted Cruz, despite polling far ahead of the Texas senator before the caucuses began. The attack ads by and large painted Trump as a closeted liberal, showing pictures of him with democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and clips of Trump identifying himself as a liberal.
Attack ads weren’t enough to derail Senator Ted Cruz from a caucus victory however, despite seeing just under half a million dollars in negative ads deployed against him - the second most in the state.
Interestingly enough, very little money was spent on opposition ads for Marco Rubio, who came in a close third place - a mere percentage point behind Trump. $13 thousand more was spent on ads attacking Mike Huckabee who could not even garner two percent of Iowan votes and subsequently dropped out of the primary. When it comes to making decisions on negative ad spending, candidates and their PACs should keep Iowa in mind.