With eight days to go until the Georgia Senate runoff elections and early voting underway, Democrats have begun closing in on what was previously a pronounced GOP ad spending advantage in the state.
With just over a week left in the contests, ad spending is up to nearly $540 million overall for the consequential elections that will determine which party has control of the Senate. Republicans lead Democrats in total Georgia ad spending, including reservations since November 10 and through the runoff by about $281.7 million to $256.6 million.
The Democrats have raised money almost entirely through the strength of candidate advertising – Jon Ossoff has spent over $100 million in ads, while Rev. Raphael Warnock is at nearly $90 million, compared to about $53.7 million spent by Sen. Kelly Loeffler and $45.7 million for Sen. David Perdue, the Republican candidates.
The campaigns and outside sponsors wasted little time to influence the two crucial contests after Perdue and Loeffler failed to hit the 50% threshold on Election Day, setting up elections against their Democratic challengers January 5.
When it comes to spending by outside groups on behalf of the candidates for Senate themselves, Republicans lead Democrats by nearly 3-to-1 – $180.5 million to $63.1 million.
Major outside GOP donors include American Crossroads – the Republican super PAC founded by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, Senate Leadership Fund – a super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican – and Peachtree PAC, which despite the name suggesting homegrown roots, is an arm of the Senate Leadership Fund.
American Crossroads has so far spent over $48 million, Senate Leadership Fund has spent over $46.8 million and Peachtree PAC has spent over $42.8 million.
Meanwhile, the strength of the Democratic candidates’ fundraising and resulting ad budgets has diminished the GOP outside spending advantage. Warnock and Ossoff each brought in more than $100 million in a two-month period, setting a blistering fundraising pace in their quest to topple two Republican incumbents in Georgia, filings show.
Outside Democratic groups such as Georgia Honor and the Georgia Way have contributed on the left – Georgia Honor has spent over $18 million and the Georgia Way has spent over $12.3 million – but they come up short when compared to GOP outside spending.
In a memo to supporters Monday, campaign managers for Ossoff’s and Warnock’s campaigns made an impassioned plea for donations, warning, “We are sounding the alarm,” over ad spending in the runoff.
The memo was signed by Jerid Kurtz, Warnock’s campaign manager, and Ellen Foster, Ossoff’s campaign manager, and acknowledged, “We’re being outspent by $80 million on TV alone as Mitch McConnell and his special interest allies try to keep two of their most reliable votes in the U.S. Senate.”
In the memo, the campaigns acknowledged the huge haul, writing, “We know that may be hard to believe after our campaigns reported record-breaking fundraising, but to keep our critical mobilization programs fully operational through the end of the election, we need a significant increase in grassroots donations between now and Election Day,” and telling supporters, “Running a field program in the pandemic that ensures the proper safety protocols are in place has proven to be very expensive.”
CNN’s Fredreka Schouten, Alex Rogers, Kim Berryman, Kyung Lah, Ryan Nobles and Donald Judd contributed to this report.