Since Joseph R. Biden Jr. became the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in April, the Trump campaign has spent $72 million in television advertising attacking the former vice president, with ads that veered rapidly on topics ranging from China to Mr. Biden’s age to policing policies. None significantly slowed Mr. Biden’s rising poll numbers.
On Tuesday, the messaging behemoth that has been the Trump campaign ground to a halt, as it temporarily suspended all television advertising nationwide in order to review its strategy under its new campaign manager, Bill Stepien.
While the pause will likely be short-lived — in a tweet on Friday afternoon, the president said that they would be launching “a new ad campaign” on Monday — the sudden decision is yet another sign that the campaign is reckoning with a yawning deficit in battleground state polling and an inability to find a defining message against Mr. Biden.
President Trump on Friday made the decision to resume television ads on Monday after a phone conversation with Mr. Stepien and Jason Miller, a senior strategist on the campaign, to discuss their review. The first ad, seeking to define Mr. Biden as both a failure and a tool of the extreme left, was part of a national ad buy. But a campaign official said the next round of advertising would focus specifically on states that begin voting early.
However brief, such a halt is unusual within the final 100 days of a presidential election, though it is unlikely that the six-day pause will have a significant impact one way or another on the Trump campaign’s ability to persuade voters come November. And the campaign sought to downplay its significance, tying it to the arrival of Mr. Stepien, who took over from Brad Parscale earlier this month.
Campaign officials noted that in 2016, Mr. Trump had not run a single television ad at this point in the race. But Mr. Trump’s first campaign was a shoestring operation, with little staff and minimal funds, while his 2020 team is sprawling, with $295 million in cash on hand and more than 1,500 staff members in the field.
Indeed, the pause is noteworthy given the size of Mr. Trump’s advertising effort up till now: Since last January, the campaign has spent $202 million in television and digital advertising, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm. Mr. Biden, by comparison, has spent about $95 million over the same period.