WASHINGTON — Donald Trump won't let anyone forget he's running for president. And over the airwaves, neither will his opponents.
In the lead-up to the Super Tuesday primary contests, more than half of all broadcast television ad spots aired in the Republican presidential race feature the controversial billionaire, an Associated Press analysis of campaign ad data found.
Overall, anti-Trump ads outnumber pro-Trump ads on broadcast airwaves nearly 3-to-1, the data show. Trump has spent about $1.4 million to air three ads that portray him positively, but groups opposing him have poured at least $5 million into at least 13 different attack ads.
The AP analyzed broadcast and national cable TV ads aired between Feb. 21 and Feb. 28 using data from Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group. The data do not include ads aired on local cable or satellite TV.
"The cumulative impact of the advertising and the candidates now taking on Trump will be to expose him for the fraud that he is," said Katie Packer, who is leading a super political action committee dedicated to stopping Trump. Packer's group, called Our Principles, spent mostly on cable ahead of Super Tuesday.
The Republican ad that's aired more than any other since Trump's South Carolina victory 10 days ago shows a wildly-gesturing Trump and tags him as "erratic, unreliable." The ad— paid for by the Marco Rubio-aligned Conservative Solutions PAC— has aired more than 2,300 times, with its heaviest rotation in Tennessee and Oklahoma, two of the 11 states that weigh in on the Republican race Tuesday.
That commercial also dubs Rubio opponent Ted Cruz, a Texas senator, "calculated, underhanded," before turning to Rubio as the clear choice.
Cruz hammers Trump in two of his campaign ads on the air now.
One commercial airing in Arkansas and Oklahoma begins with a clip of a Trump on Fox News saying, "I'm very capable of changing to anything I want to change to." Text overlay notes, "That's for sure." The ad goes on to highlight Trump comments on abortion, Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton that Republican voters might not like.
A different Cruz ad reminds viewers that the next president will likely pick a new Supreme Court justice and that Trump hasn't been uniformly opposed to abortion.
The Cruz-backing outside group Stand for Truth has also gotten in on the Trump bashing.
An ad airing in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas mostly touts Cruz while taking a brief swipe at Trump, running his photo in a montage with Democrats Clinton and Bernie Sanders. A narrator says, "We can't afford to take a chance on this election."
But Trump is rebuffing the attacks with three different campaign ads of his own. One returns fire at Cruz, calling him "the worst kind of Washington insider, who just can't be trusted." That is up exclusively in Cruz's home state, which the candidate has identified as a must-win.
Trump's top-broadcast ad in the past 10 days also is on air in Texas, along with Arkansas, Virginia and Tennessee.
The spot features a montage of Trump speaking in front of crowds while people who attended those rallies praise his ability to "speak the truth" and "tell it like it is." The ad ends with Trump giving a thumbs-up while audio of a stump speech plays in which he says his campaign slogan, "We will make America great again."
The Club for Growth begs to differ. The outside group's political arm, Club for Growth Action, is back on the air in a handful of Super Tuesday states after spending $2.5 million hitting Trump ahead of voting in Iowa and South Carolina.
"Trump wants us to think he's Mr. Tell-It-Like-It-Is, but he has a record, and it's very liberal," a deep-voiced narrator says in the Club for Growth ad before landing a near-rhyming blow: "He's really just playing us for chumps."
Yet for all the Trump attack ads up now, Packer says she doesn't expect them to make a difference on Tuesday.
That's because Packer and the leaders of other outside groups that are increasingly training their fire on Trump say they're just getting started.
Her group, Our Principles, plans to spend more than $1 million in the coming weeks airing an ad that features people who attended Trump University with little to show for it.
Another outside group, American Future Fund, says it also is beginning a "multimillion-dollar" anti-Trump television effort on Tuesday. The group, which does not disclose its donors, has been attracting backers who its spokesman, Stuart Roy, says have recently come to the realization that Trump is "dangerously close" to locking up the GOP presidential nomination.
"Pocketbooks have loosened up in recent days and weeks," Roy said. "But if the question is, 'Will it be enough to stop him?' The answer is, 'It's getting a little late in the game.'"