What worked for him—social media and free media coverage of his rallies—won’t work for most candidates, especially in next year’s midterms.
The failure of campaign ads in the last U.S. presidential race became the conventional wisdom, with the general election seen as the ultimate judge. At the presidential level, the importance of ads remains an open question thanks to the sitting president.
But Travis Ridout, a government professor at Washington State University, thinks ads still matter—that they’re worth spending millions on. “There is a different dynamic at play,” said Ridout, who co-directs the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political ads. “When you’re dealing with, say, a House race, oftentimes the challenger isn’t someone people have heard of before. Advertising can be very effective at introducing a candidate.”