Senate races are absolutely awash in campaign dollars, as donors large and small pour cash into a dozen or so competitive contests that will decide which party controls the majority in 2021.
On Thursday alone, Arizona Democratic nominee Mark Kelly announced that he had raised almost $39 million in just the last three months while in Montana, Democratic Senate candidate Steve Bullock raked in nearly $27 million over that same time.
In fact, of the 10 most expensive Senate races ever, seven of them are happening in the 2020 election, according to calculations made by Advertising Analytics, a firm that tracks TV ad spending in political contests.
Here’s the full top 10, via John Link at Advertising Analytics:
1. North Carolina Senate 2020: $242 million
2. Iowa Senate 2020: $195 million
3. Florida Senate 2018: $176 million
4. Arizona Senate 2020: $165 million
5. Montana Senate 2020: $143 million
6. South Carolina Senate 2020: $140 million
7. Maine Senate 2020: $140 million
8. Pennsylvania Senate 2016: $138 million
9. Georgia Senate 2020: $128 million
10. New Hampshire Senate 2016: $127 million
Pretty staggering, right? Especially when you consider that the election is still 19 days away. Which means that it’s at least possible that we could see more 2020 Senate races crack the top 10 – and the spending on the races already in the top 10 soar even higher.
Inside the numbers, you can very clearly see how the surge in Democratic money has bolstered the party’s candidates. Here’s a look at the spending disparity – on advertising – between the two candidates in the seven 2020 races that are already in the top 10 most expensive races ever, also according to Advertising Analytics:
1. North Carolina: Cal Cunningham (D) $28 million vs. Sen. Thom Tillis (R) $12 million
2. Iowa: Theresa Greenfield (D) $37 million vs. Sen. Joni Ernst (R) $11 million
3. Arizona: Mark Kelly (D) $54 million vs. Sen. Martha McSally (R) $24 million
4. Montana: Steve Bullock (D) $29 million vs. Sen. Steve Daines (R) $19 million
5. South Carolina: Jaime Harrison (D) $73 million vs. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) $34 million
6. Maine: Sara Gideon (D) $25 million vs. Sen. Susan Collins (R) $15 million
7. Georgia: Jon Ossoff (D) $25 million vs. Sen. David Perdue (R) $12 million
Remarkable. In every single one of these hugely expensive races, the Democratic challenger is heavily outspending the Republican incumbent on advertising. Greenfield, in Iowa, is spending triple what Ernst is on TV, according to Advertising Analytics. Cunningham, Kelly, Harrison and Ossoff are doubling the ad spending of their GOP incumbent rivals.
And when you look at total ad spending – by the candidate, coordinated committees and outside issue groups – the story is largely the same. In six of these seven most expensive races, the combined Democratic ad spending is higher than the total Republican ad spending – often by tens of millions of dollars.
In Iowa, for example, Democrats have spent $118 million on ads as compared to $77 million for Republican. In Arizona, it’s $102 million for Democrats to just $63 million for Republicans. The only race of the seven where the spending is roughly equivalent is Georgia, where Democrats have dropped $63 million on ads, just under Republicans’ $64 million.
Now, advertising dollars are not determinative of victory. If they were, Hillary Clinton would be running for a second term as president right about now.
But ask any political professional whether they would rather be the candidate spending more on ads or less on ads and, to a person, they will say they’d rather be the one with more money and more ads. Every. Single. Time.
Make no mistake: This election will be one for the Senate record books. And right now, it also has the makings of a major seat pickup for Democrats.