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Trump Wrong About Ads Attacking Kasich

Donald Trump falsely claims that while he has had “55,000 negative ads” run against him, John Kasich has “never had one negative ad against him.”

While it’s true that Trump has had far more negative ads run against him in the presidential campaign, it’s simply not true that Ohio Gov. Kasich hasn’t had any. There have been 92 TV ads that ran about 57,000 times against Trump and 18 ads that ran about 9,400 times against Kasich, according to Kantar Media, which tracks political advertising.

In fact, Trump himself ran an ad in Ohio attacking Kasich. It ran 755 times.

Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, has criticized Kasich, who trails in third place, for staying in the race. Kasich, meanwhile, has pointed out that he, not Trump, beats Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in polls on a hypothetical general election matchup. According to a Real Clear Politics average of polls from March 24 to April 14, Clinton leads Trump nationally by 9.3 percentage points, while Kasich leads Clinton by an average of 7.8 percentage points. (The other Republican presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, trails Clinton by an average of 2.3 percentage points.)

Trump says that’s only because Kasich hasn’t been tested yet with negative ads, a point he made during a rally in Ocean City, Maryland, on April 20 (at the 37:38 mark).

“As far as Kasich is concerned, he will get slaughtered by Hillary,” Trump said. “He’s never had one negative ad against him. I’ve had 55,000 negative ads. Kasich hasn’t had one negative ad. As soon as he has the first 10 ads against him, he will drop like a rock, believe me.”

Trump repeated the claim in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show the following day (at the 40-second mark).

“I’ve been hit by 55,000 ads,” Trump said. “I saw it on your show, 55,000 negative ads, and nobody else has. You know, you look at a guy like Kasich. He’s never been hit by an ad because nobody cares, frankly. No, it’s true. It’s so true.”

Let’s start with the ad the Trump campaign itself ran against Kasich in Ohio in March.

The ad said Kasich “helped Wall Street predator Lehman Brothers destroy the world economy,” a claim that earned a dubious four Pinocchios from the Washington Post Fact Checker, who described the claim as “preposterous.” The Post noted that Kasich, who worked at Lehman Brothers, was “one managing director out of 700, in a firm of 25,000.”

The ad included another misleading attack, that Kasich “increased [Ohio’s] budget more than any other governor in the U.S.” It’s a claim that is based on skewed data, as we wrote when a similar charge was made in an ad by a pro-Jeb Bush super PAC.

According to Andrew Fitzgerald, Kantar Media’s senior political and environmental media analyst, that Trump campaign ad against Kasich ran 755 times in Ohio.

But it wasn’t the first time Kasich has been targeted by ads in the presidential campaign. In fact, we have written about several ads attacking Kasich.

There was the ad we mentioned from the pro-Jeb Bush Right to Rise super PAC that relied on skewed data to falsely label Kasich as having the “worst rating on spending of any governor in the country, Republican or Democrat.” A similar claim was raised in several ads attacking Kasich.

Another ad from Right to Rise — which targeted Kasich in four different ads — attacked Kasich for voting to “cut troop levels and military funding,” which is true, but fails to mention that those votes in the early to mid-1990s came at a time in U.S. history — post Cold War — when the debate on Capitol Hill was not whether to reduce troops or cut defense spending, but by how many and how much. That ad, and others, have also noted Kasich’s support for a Medicaid expansion made possible by the Affordable Care Act. Kasich has said he opposes the Affordable Care Act, but he supports the Medicaid expansion, which took effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Another attack ad came from a pro-Ted Cruz group that falsely claimed that Democratic donor George Soros gave “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to Kasich. (The ad was later revised, but still relied on guilt by association to make its point.) An ad from the conservative American Future Fund claimed Kasich “raised taxes by billions” in Ohio, ignoring that Kasich’s overall plan resulted in a net tax cut.

All told, there have been 18 ads run against Kasich (though some attack multiple candidates), according to Kantar Media data. Those ads have aired just under 9,400 times, Fitzgerald told us. While only one came directly from the Trump campaign, ads attacking Kasich have been lobbed from groups supporting Cruz, Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio.

Trump certainly has a point that he has been the biggest target of attack ads. According to Fitzgerald, Trump actually undershot slightly when he said there have been 55,000 negative ads run against him. According to Kantar data, as of April 21, there have been 92 separate ads targeting Trump — 11 from the Clinton campaign — and those ads have aired just under 57,000 times.

So using Trump’s measure —  the number of times negative or comparison ads have aired — the score is 57,000 against Trump and 9,400 against Kasich. That’s a big disparity, but it’s not 55,000 to zero.