WASHINGTON (AP) — If presidential primaries were decided by political advertisements, Pat Sajak, Alex Trebek and the hosts of the network morning shows would be kingmakers.
Political groups are flooding the airways during popular game shows, including “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” as well as local news and network morning shows as they try to influence presidential primary voters, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.
Since March 1, more than 110,000 ad spots have aired during more than 1,500 different TV shows in at least 48 states. The concentration of ads provides insights into strategies by candidates, super PACs and so-called “dark money” groups as they pump tens of millions of dollars into television spots ahead of early voting in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Within days, they are expected to surpass spending $100 million on broadcast television spots on the election so far, and they already plan to spend millions more over the next several weeks.
Their strategies reflect a combination of targeting like-minded voters during their favorite shows and airing ads during programs with the biggest audiences they can afford. They avoid weekends — Saturdays and Sundays are your best chances to escape political ads on television — and they appear to avoid some raunchy comedies, though “American Dad” and “Family Guy” both attracted a smattering of political ads.
Republican presidential candidates and groups appear to be targeting viewers of “The O’Reilly Factor” and other Fox News programs. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have aired hundreds of spots during “Live with Kelly and Michael,” ”Family Feud,” ”Big Bang Theory” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Trying to reach New Hampshire Republicans? “Good Morning America” and local news on Manchester’s ABC affiliate, WMUR, were the methods of choice.
Attempting to resurrect Jeb Bush’s candidacy? Try a strategy heavy on Fox News, sprinkled with some game shows, local news, “Inside Edition” and “NCIS.” On the other hand, the super PAC supporting Bush also spent its least amount in advertising on two spots in November during an afternoon airing of “The Birdcage,” a 1996 comedy about a gay cabaret owner and his drag queen companion.
The data on political ads, analyzed by the AP, come from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of Kantar Media, the New York-based firm that tracks political advertising across television, radio and online. The CMAG data includes spots aired on broadcast and national cable television but doesn’t include local cable ad buys.
Local news brought in the most political ad dollars of any type of program, accounting for an estimated $36 million spent on more than…