Photo Credit: Megan Pendergrass / CNN Money

Photo Credit: Megan Pendergrass / CNN Money

Free Money Is Earning Elections

Originally posted at MediaPost

By J. Max Robins 

The tremendous multiple-state wins Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump enjoyed in Tuesday night’s primaries are a direct result of the incredible disparity in the multi-platform coverage — the so-called earned media — that frontrunners received, compared to their respective rivals.

The Donald, who has probably garnered more free media than any candidate in history, has far outpaced Hillary, as well as his GOP foes. If that trend continues, and it ends up being Clinton vs. Trump in the fall, it could be an extremely tight race, and not the easy ride for Hillary predicted by many anti-Donald GOP establishment types.

Trump has spent many millions less on political advertising than such excised also-rans as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, as well as still-active rival Ted Cruz. But The Donald’s brand of ratings and traffic crack means he earned $400 million in free media alone last month — everywhere from cable news to Facebook to Twitter — and almost $2 billion over the course of his campaign, according to a New York Times-commissioned study.

Cruz, in contrast, has received $313 million in free media over the same period. As CNN’s Dylan Byers noted, The Donald has received more earned media than all his Republican rivals combined.

During the primary, Bernie Sanders’ minions rightly complained that his upstart run was getting short shrift coverage-wise from traditional media outlets compared to his establishment rival, Clinton. To a large part through savvy use of social media, Bernie has run much stronger than initially expected, but in that same Times-commissioned study, Clinton was tracked as receiving $746 million in earned media, compared to the Vermont senator’s $321 million.

In the last month, both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns have spent the most on advertising buys. I’m convinced that the disparity in dollars and cents in earned media explains much of Hillary’s success in Florida, Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois last night, despite the momentum Sanders had gained in a startling upset in Michigan last week.