Breathe now, TV viewer.
An onslaught of political ads – worth $19 million and counting – is coming your way, most of it courtesy of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and friends.
The two presidential hopefuls from Florida, who collided at Wednesday’s GOP debate, are laying the groundwork for a battle on the Palmetto State’s airwaves ahead of the state’s Feb. 20 Republican primary.
Of the roughly $19 million, only about $3 million already has been spent on ads with locally based TV stations, according to Scott Howell, whose Texas-based media firm is consulting for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, also seeking the GOP presidential nomination.
The remaining $16 million in air time has been reserved by the Bush and Rubio campaigns and their allies in South Carolina’s major media markets, including Greenville-Spartanburg, Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.
Backing Bush is more than $10 million in planned spending targeting South Carolina’s media markets, according to Howell’s report on spending for the first-in-the-South primary.
Bush’s bankroll includes about $1 million in planned spending from his presidential campaign and more than $9 million from Right to Rise, a political-action committee that hopes to pave the former Florida governor’s path to the White House by spending millions.
Rubio’s campaign has not spent any money on S.C. TV ads yet, but it plans to spend $5 million on the state’s airwaves, according to the report.
Rubio also will have some help from friendly PACs.
The Conservative Solutions PAC, run by longtime S.C. political consultant Warren Tompkins, plans to spend another $2.2 million on pro-Rubio ads. Tompkins said the PAC has secured about six weeks of air time leading up to the primary.
(Tompkins also runs an issue-based PAC that currently is running TV ads and sending out mail casting Rubio in a favorable light.)
While not the only candidates buying ad time in South Carolina, Bush, Rubio and friends account for more than 95 percent of the spending and planned TV ad purchases thus far.
“We feel very good about our showing in South Carolina so far, and Marco has a lot of support there,” said campaign spokeswoman Brooke Sammon. “We plan to be back often and believe we will succeed there.”
Spokesman Brett Doster said the Bush campaign will have “more than enough resources to win in South Carolina,” starting with weekly visits from the candidate heading into December.
For PACs, locking down air time early – even though ad buys could change – is strategic, Tompkins said. TV stations charge PACs more than a candidate’s campaign for ads, he said, and prices only rise as the contest nears.
Howell, the Texas media consultant, said the available local air time eventually will run out.
“As demand for ad space increases, these groups will start buying up the rate card,” he said. “I don't want to say it's to the highest bidder, but that’s effectively what it is.”
Is SC key to dealing with The Donald?
Katon Dawson is looking for a few good donors willing to “tell the truth” about Donald Trump.
The former S.C. GOP chairman says $2 million would help him launch a super PAC targeting the Republican presidential hopeful and longtime GOP frontrunner, who is raising eyebrows and concerns among the party’s establishment faithful.
Dawson says he does not dislike Trump and is not scheming to “take him out.” But he worries about what could happen if Trump becomes the GOP nominee.
Dawson predicts the “Clinton machine” would mow over Trump — with his “baggage” — with gobs of cash, matching what the billionaire reality-TV star may end up spending out of his own pocket.
There also could be collateral damage, Dawson warns, laying out just how bad a Trump nomination could be for the GOP. The fear? “We start losing congressional seats.”
Wesley Donehue has a thing for bow ties and beer. Love for the latter has led the digital strategist into a new, frothy venture, he announced last week. Donehue, whose firm is headquartered in Charleston and has a political advocacy shop in Columbia, has invested in Frothy Beard Brewing Co. The boost from Donehue will allow the brewery to expand into a new location, pushing its frothy elixirs into more pints across the state.
2016 in SC
Presidential candidates in the Palmetto State this week:
Democratic presidential hopefuls: On Friday, Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will take part in a first-in-the-South forum at Winthrop University. The event broadcasts at 8 p.m. on MSNBC.
Bush: The former Florida governor will speak in Lexington Tuesday at the VFW Post 8738 on 424 Cedarcrest Drive. Doors will open at 11 a.m.
Clinton: The former secretary of state returns to Columbia to speak at a 6 p.m. Saturday gathering for S.C. Equality – a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group — at the Columbia Marriott.
Graham: The Seneca Republican will speak to the Clemson Rotary Club at noon Monday in Central. At 4:30 p.m., he will hold a town-hall meeting at Clemson University with former Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates.
Rand Paul: The U.S. senator from Kentucky will participate in a town-hall meeting at noon Friday with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott at Winthrop’s Richardson Ballroom.