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Georgians cannot avoid political advertising before the runoff elections in the Senate

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Tolan J. Morgan, pastor of the Fellowship Bible Baptist Church in the geographic center of a state at the center of the political universe, says he and his wife were so inundated with campaign advertising that they stopped watching live television.

Instead, the couple record their favorite shows so they can fast-forward through the onslaught of political advertisements related to next week’s high-profile Senate election in Georgia – including a commercial from a candidate complaining about all of the advertisement.

“It’s just an exaggeration,” said Morgan, who hosted one of the candidates, Rev. Raphael Warnock, at his church in Warner Robins, a two-hour drive south of Atlanta. “Every day, all day long, there is a commercial. Every show, every commercial break. “

With the early vote in full swing and both sides expecting close races, over $ 485 million in advertising time has been used or reserved ahead of Tuesday’s special election, the results of which will also determine which political party controls the U.S. Senate. According to AdImpact, which tracks television and radio spending, more than 275,000 political ads have aired in the state since November 5.

The two Democratic candidates Warnock and Jon Ossoff lead their Republican opponents Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue respectively in the advertising purchases. But external party-affiliated and specific interest groups have also spent a lot on advertising. Overall, Republicans have dominated ad spending.

It’s not clear that the saturation of the ether with so many ads will change many opinions, experts say, especially since the same candidates already covered the state ahead of the November 3rd elections. As the results of that election made clear, campaign spending does not guarantee victory: at least three incumbent Republican senators defeated well-funded challengers.

“If you’ve heard it before, nothing is really going to change your mind about who you support,” said Travis Ridout, a professor at Washington State University, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising. “I think a lot of people have probably already made up their mind as this is the second choice.

Still, with Senate control at stake and hundreds of millions of dollars still pouring into the races in recent days, campaigns and outside groups have no regrets for leaving cash on the table. With so many doors left to knock on and their voting plans set weeks ago, campaigns have few options left to spend their cash reserves.

“It’s hard to do anything else with this money at the last minute,” said Ridout.

Depending on the time of day, viewers can expect to encounter campaign ad after campaign before returning to the “Today” show, “Judge Judy,” a college football game, or “Family Feud,” some of the most popular shows while ads are running. As AdImpact data shows, the tide is strongest at the 8:00 am, between 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and around the 11:00 pm news.

A break from political advertising is most likely around 3am. Since the November election, fewer than 1,000 ads have run at this point.

Although they generally pay more than candidates for airtime under federal law, external groups are also piling up. Conservative super-PAC American Crossroads and its counterpart, the Senate Leadership Fund, affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Have spent almost as much on ads as Loeffler and Perdue put together. The Political Victory Fund PAC of the National Rifle Assn. sends commercials asking people to “vote like your safety depends on it”. The Georgia Farm Bureau encourages farmers to cast their votes.

Even a California television evangelist, Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, bought airtime through his PAC to ask Georgians to choose their “Christian worldview.”

While the candidates and political parties have enough money to cover the entire state, some outside political groups have shunned Atlanta’s expensive market. They believe that in smaller markets their message has a greater chance of being heard and increasing voter turnout or deterring their opponents’ supporters from appearing.

The Democratic Super-PAC American Bridge 21st Century is running $ 5.7 million in rural areas in ads showing all Republicans planning to vote for Democrats, a tactic that helped reduce Republican margins during the Restrict presidential elections.

“We use a scalpel, not a club,” said the group’s political director, Sacha Haworth. “We’re not on TV in Atlanta and we will never be on TV in Atlanta.”

The advertising is mostly negative, focuses on national issues and aims to attract as many voters as possible rather than trying to convince alternate voters. Democratic ads accuse GOP incumbents of not doing enough to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and sluggish economy. Advertisements by Republicans and their allied groups warn of the consequences of handing control of the Senate to the Democrats.

Loeffler, for example, began airing a commercial this week calling on Georgians to “stop the radical left,” “stop socialism in its tracks,” and “save America” ​​by voting.

Her opponent Warnock has countered that Loeffler took his words out of context and has criticized the Senator for selling stocks after receiving a pandemic briefing while downplaying the virus threat.

Ossoff, the 89 million. It was run 9,633 times in 28 days, which corresponds to 344 times a day.

Perdue’s response, in which he emphasizes that he was acquitted by the Senate Ethics Committee and the Justice Department for selling shares at the beginning of the pandemic and accusing Ossoff of lying about it, is the second most popular commercial to run 9,031 times in 29 days or 311 times a day, according to data from AdImpact.

Less than a week before the election, candidates know that voters are getting tired.

“Do you suffer from the negative ads?” Warnock says in an ad that was published by his campaign on Wednesday. “Tired of the post? Ready for the calls to stop? Me too, but there is still a lot to do. “

The Times staffer, Jenny Jarvie, contributed to this report.

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