In every campaign, political ads become inescapable as Election Day draws closer. That may be more true than ever in this midterm cycle.
The nonpartisan firm AdImpact released a report Wednesday projecting that nearly $9.7 billion total will be spent on political ads during the 2022 election cycle.
That is an astonishing sum that would not only surpass all previous midterm cycles, but presidential cycles too. According to AdImpact’s data, ad spending reached a record $9 billion during the 2020 elections, when the Donald Trump-Joe Biden presidential race was at the top of the ticket, and $4 billion during the 2018 elections, when Democrats took control of the House.
Presidential election cycles are almost always more expensive than midterms. But there are a few factors that make 2022 different.
First, both majorities in the Senate and the House are up for grabs. The last time both chambers of Congress flipped party control in the same year was 2006, during a wave election for Democrats. In the most recent midterm elections during a president’s first term in office, 2010 and 2018, only the House was really in play.
Plus, after Trump attempted to pressure state and local officials to overturn the 2020 election results, the stakes are higher for the 36 gubernatorial elections on the ballot this year – especially for those in key battleground states including Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those efforts have also caused donors and voters to pay more attention to races that typically have a lower profile, like for secretary of state.
In some cases, the candidates themselves have contributed to the uptick in spending. Wealthy self-funders across the country poured millions of tens of dollars into their campaigns this cycle.
And, as AdImpact notes in its report, there are some underlying elements that have helped supercharge the landscape: “An increasingly polarized electorate and easily accessible online fundraising tools have been major factors propelling this surge in spending. It no longer takes a presidential ticket at the top of the ballot to push a cycle near the $10 billion threshold.”
How will all that money be split up? Here’s how AdImpact projected it will break down: $2.43 billion for governor’s races; $2.37 billion for Senate races; $1.88 billion for House races; and $2.99 billion for races further down the ballot.
Around $5 billion worth of ads have already aired or are set to air before Election Day. That amount alone is already more than was spent on ads during the entire 2018 cycle.
In 2018, Florida was the only state where a Senate race crossed the $100 million mark for ad spending. In 2022, with an evenly divided upper chamber, six Senate races have already surpassed that, according to AdImpact: Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin and Ohio.
In fact, the Georgia Senate race – where Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker are facing off this November – has already seen more than $200 million in ad spending.
The Point: Both parties are now able to pull from a seemingly unlimited pit of money. That means elections across the board are only going to keep getting more and more expensive.