Michael R. Bloomberg is funding a last-minute spending blitz to bolster former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Texas and Ohio, directing millions toward television advertising in two red states that have shifted away from President Trump in the general election.
A political adviser to Mr. Bloomberg said the billionaire former mayor of New York City would use his super PAC, Independence USA, to air intensive ad campaigns in all television markets in both states. The cost of the two-state campaign is expected to total around $15 million.
The decision by Mr. Bloomberg reflects just how much the electoral landscape appears to have shifted in the final few months of the presidential race, as Mr. Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic has intensified his unpopularity and further alienated crucial voting groups like women and suburbanites.
Mr. Biden’s campaign has treated Ohio as a competitive battleground for some time, even though Mr. Trump carried it by a wide margin in 2016, and more recently, the Democratic ticket has been putting some time and money into Texas. Senator Kamala Harris of California, Mr. Biden’s running mate, is planning to visit the state on Friday.
Howard Wolfson, one of Mr. Bloomberg’s closest aides, said the former mayor had recently asked his team to run a round of polls to see whether Mr. Trump had unexpected vulnerabilities that could be exploited in the campaign’s closing weeks. Up to this point, Mr. Bloomberg’s general-election activities have focused on Florida, where he has pledged to spend $100 million supporting Mr. Biden.
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The Bloomberg team conducted polling in a number of states over the weekend and came away convinced that Texas and Ohio represented its best targets — narrowly divided electoral prizes where the war for television airtime is not already cluttered with heavy advertising on either side. The team presented Mr. Bloomberg with the numbers on Monday morning and he gave the go-ahead.
“We believe that Florida will go down to the wire, and we were looking for additional opportunities to expand the map,” Mr. Wolfson said. “Texas and Ohio present the best opportunities to do that, in our view.”
Mr. Bloomberg is also planning to increase the size of his television ad buys in Florida over the next week, Mr. Wolfson said.
Should either Texas or Ohio slip into the Democratic column, it would likely indicate not only a Trump defeat, but also one by a thumping margin. The two states have 56 Electoral College votes between them, and Mr. Trump’s campaign has never devised a path to victory that does not involve carrying both.
And Mr. Biden’s campaign has not been relying on either Texas or Ohio to deliver the crucial 270 Electoral College votes needed to seal a victory: Although Democrats are competing to a significant extent in both states, neither of them has risen as high on Mr. Biden’s priority list as must-win battlegrounds like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, or solidly purple states like North Carolina and Georgia.
Mr. Trump’s campaign has dismissed the possibility that Texas could flip to the Democratic column, and over the weekend, Rick Perry, the former energy secretary and governor of Texas, told reporters that it was “not a battleground state.”
Oct. 27, 2020, 7:17 a.m. ET
But other Republicans have been alarmed for many weeks that Texas — the most populous red state in the country — is even competitive. Senator John Cornyn, a Republican up for re-election there, has told allies that the president’s unpopularity is holding down other members of his party in the state.
A poll published on Monday by The New York Times found that Mr. Trump had a narrow lead over Mr. Biden in Texas, 47 percent to 43 percent. Mr. Wolfson said the Bloomberg polling showed the presidential contest as even tighter than that in the state, with Mr. Trump only slightly ahead in both Texas and Ohio.
Mr. Wolfson said the Bloomberg advertising campaign in both states would focus chiefly on the coronavirus, highlighting the new spike in cases across the country under Mr. Trump’s watch. The Texas advertising will include a heavy Spanish-language component.
In Ohio, Independence USA also plans to air advertising about the economy and Mr. Biden’s “build back better” message.
It is not the first time that Mr. Bloomberg has used his vast personal fortune to gamble on some 11th-hour spending in daunting political territory. During the 2018 midterm elections, Mr. Bloomberg’s advisers conducted a late round of polls in congressional districts to see if there were any winnable races for Democrats where other groups were not already spending heavily.
They discovered one Republican-held district in Oklahoma City and its suburbs where the Democratic nominee, Kendra Horn, was surprisingly competitive. Mr. Bloomberg authorized hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising, and Ms. Horn won her race by about 3,300 votes.