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How midterm political ad spending could hit a record $9 billion


Where are all those ads going? The largest sum is going to California. It’s not being driven by the race for governor or U.S. Senator, but by the spending of two statewide ballot measures: Propositions 26 and 27. These measures deal with gambling and are, for the most part, well-funded by a mix of physical and online gambling entities. Props 26 and 27 along with a few other ballot measures account for $391 million of the $550 million to date spent in California. The Los Angeles market is leading the nation in political spending at $279 million; these ballot measures count for nearly 65% there.

Nearby, Arizona and Nevada are among the leaders in political spending in 2022. Both states have competitive races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governor. Arizona’s governor’s chair is open since incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is term-limited. That tight contest is between the state’s current secretary of state, Katie Hobbs (D), and former Phoenix TV anchor Kari Lake (R).

The two states also have tough U.S. Senate races with Democratic incumbents Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) taking on Trump-endorsed Blake Masters in Arizona and former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt in the Silver State. Many ads talking about border security, profligate spending, abortion rights and extremist views are on viewers’ screens in both states. Nevada has seen $269 million committed while Arizona trails slightly at $236 million. Las Vegas has $215 million of that total while Phoenix has tallied $190 million. The largest campaign spenders in both states are the Senate contests. Sen. Cortez Masto leads Nevada spenders at $31 million while Sen. Kelly leads in Arizona with $36 million.

For bigger political ad activity on the East Coast, you’d find yourself in either Georgia or Pennsylvania. Georgia is the second-most active state at $310 million. It’s led by the key Senate matchup between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and former University of Georgia Heisman winner, Herschel Walker (R). This contest is pumping in $200 million, and we could see a runoff if neither candidate gets more than 50% of the vote. The governor’s race–a rematch between current Gov. Brian Kemp and 2018 Democratic standard bearer Stacey Abrams–has spent nearly $70 million. Pennsylvania has crossed the $300 million mark propelled by the contest for the open U.S. Senate seat between Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) and Dr. Mehmet Oz (R). This one started slow but has heated up in recent weeks as it approaches $200 million with Senate Leadership Fund (R), gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro (D), and Senate Majority PAC (D) all within close range of the spending lead. The Republican candidate for governor has been a no-show on the airwaves thus far.

This heightened activity in these states and a handful of others will lead us to the presidential sweepstakes—which might begin about 10 minutes after this election is over. It could be historic if President Biden doesn’t run for reelection. That would mark the first time since 1968 that an incumbent president decided not to run and would give us another open primary in both parties.


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