Trump super PAC reserves millions in airtime in key states

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump is finally opening his checkbook, reserving millions of dollars in airtime for ads to bolster his endorsed candidates in key midterm races just one month before Election Day.

Trump's newly-formed MAGA Inc. super PAC has so far placed reservations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Arizona, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. Additional spending is planned in Nevada and Georgia, according to a person familiar with the effort who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the buys before they were made public.

The Georgia spending is particularly notable, coming as Trump's hand-picked Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker's campaign has been rocked by reports alleging he encouraged and paid for a woman’s 2009 abortion. Walker, a longtime football icon, backed a national ban on abortion during his primary, and has said he does not believe in exceptions even in cases of rape, incest or when the health of a pregnant woman is at risk.

On Friday, the super PAC booked $1 million worth of airtime in Arizona, with ads set to begin airing Saturday, according to AdImpact. That follows reservations of $1.34 million in Ohio and $829,000 in Pennsylvania placed Thursday, AdImpact said in a tweet.

MAGA Inc. spokesman Steven Cheung declined to say how much additional spending Trump had planned beyond the initial reservations. “We’re not going to telegraph our spending but it’s a significant buy,” he said.

The super PAC's first two ads are negative spots aimed at turning voters off the Democratic rivals of Trump-endorsed candidates. The first attacks Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman, who is running against Republican nominee Mehmet Oz, by portraying Fetterman as soft on crime.

“John Fetterman wants ruthless killers, muggers and rapists back on our streets,” it charges, labeling the lieutenant governor “dangerous.”

The second targets Ohio Democratic Senate candidate Tim Ryan for voting with his party as a member of Congress, using footage from a speech in which he joked that he would “suck up a little bit” to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, "his future boss." Ryan, who is running against Trump-endorsed Republican JD Vance, has run as centrist trying to win back the Rust Belt voters who have soured on the party in recent years.

The ads released so far notably do not feature or even mention Trump, who remains a deeply divisive figure, but one who is extremely popular with the Republican base.

Trump had been under growing pressure to finally start spending on midterm races after playing an outsize role in the primaries and pushing his favored candidates. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in particular, had urged candidates with Trump’s support to ask him to open his checkbook heading into the race's final stretch.

The notoriously thrifty former president's Save America PAC, his main fundraising vehicle since leaving office, ended August with more than $90 million in the bank. Trump aides have discussed transferring a portion of that money to MAGA Inc., which could later be used to support a presidential campaign should Trump decide to run again, though campaign finance experts are divided on the legality of such a move.

Trump has continued to tease another presidential run, telling supporters at a rally in Warren, Michigan, last weekend, “We’ll be talking about great things hopefully in the not so distant future."

“Oh I think you're going to be happy," he went on to say. “But first we have to win a historic victory for the Republican Party this November.”

Jill Colvin, The Associated Press