APTOPIX Election 2020 Debate

Democratic presidential candidates from left, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer vie to answer questions during a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles.

Four weeks out from the Iowa caucuses, TV and YouTube viewers in that state are being deluged by campaign commercials from Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Industry trade group Advertising Analytics said candidates so far have spent $45 million on advertising in Iowa. That’s compared to 2016 when $46.3 million was spent when both Democrats and Republicans had contested races. The latter amount is expected to be topped in the last month before Iowans vote.

The top spender so far in the Hawkeye State has been businessman Tom Steyer at close to $12 million. The billionaire is largely self-funding his campaign, but did announce Friday that he had met one of the requirements to qualify for the Jan. 14 debate in Iowa, that being 225,000 unique donors.

The Democratic National Committee has increased the qualifying standards with each passing debate, leading to fewer and fewer participants. For the next debate, candidates had to obtain the number of individual donors and receive at least 5 percent support in four national polls or in two single-state polls among the “early four” voting states. They are, in order, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

So far, only former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have qualified.

The next biggest spender in Iowa is Buttigieg, who continues to lead in polling there, at $7 million. He was followed by Sanders at $6 million, Warren at $5 million and Biden at $4 million. California businessman Andrew Yang has spent about $3.7 million. Both Yang and Steyer qualified for the DNC’s December debate in Los Angeles under less strict standards.

By contrast, President Donald Trump has spent less than $500,000 in Iowa.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not buying any ads in Iowa and has not filed to appear as a candidate in the first four voting states. He entered the race late and has been focusing on the Super Tuesday states. The billionaire is self-funding his campaign entirely and not soliciting donations, reportedly spending more than $120 million of his own money so far. Because he is not accepting contributions, Bloomberg will not qualify for any upcoming debates.

Ad buys steadily clicked up in Iowa as the race heated up in the latter half of 2019, with about $3 million in August and September, $7.5 million in October, $11 million in November and $12 million in December.

The number of ads on television caused former San Antonia Mayor Julian Castro in December to tweet an apology to Iowans while on a bus tour of the state, saying he had seen four ads within 15 minutes for various candidates. Castro exited the race last week.