July 26, 2022

Economy, Abortion Debate Boost Midterm Ad Spending

By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.

Concerns about inflation may have some businesses tightening their advertising budgets, but there’s one rich source from which media companies and marketers will gain bundles of ad spending over the next few months.

That source would be the political arena — namely, the 2022 midterm elections.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) announced earlier this month that it had raised more than $173 million for its candidates in the midterm elections, having spent more than $21 million on television ads. That TV ad spending has since swelled, thanks to primary elections in key states looming in August, ahead of the November general election.

The Democratic National Committee, on the other hand, reported last month that it had raised more than $66 million so far this calendar year, the most it had ever raised at that point (mid-June) in a midterm election year. The DNC said it raised $16.1 million during the month of May alone, contributing to its record total.

Leaders of both parties fired salvoes at each other as they announced their fundraising figures, of course.

“Democrats continue to deliver a blow to the confidence of American families,” Rick Scott, the NRSC chairman and Florida senator, said.

“Their radical left agenda is leaving hard-working Americans scraping by to make ends meet. Our goal from the start was to define the Democrats for their actions in Washington that are destroying the American Dream and that is exactly what we have done.”

Democrats, though, say they continue to gain “blockbuster fundraising numbers” themselves, having gained much momentum with the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade last month.

“It says enthusiasm, I think it says that people understand it’s the United States Senate that confirms judges, particularly in light of what’s happened,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the party’s No. 4 leader.

Candidates Raise Plenty of Funds of Their Own, Too

TV viewers across the country already are seeing ads run incessantly, thanks to candidates who are raising plenty of funds of their own, outside their national committees.

In Georgia, for example, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock raised $17.2 million in the second quarter, and though he has spent heavily on TV ads already, he ended the quarter with $22 million on hand. That compares to Republican opponent Herschel Walker, whose campaign raised $6.2 million in the same time frame with $7 million cash on hand.

In other states, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) reported $13.6 million in second-quarter fundraising and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) $5 million-plus as their opponents compete in late GOP primaries. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) raised $7.5 million in the second quarter, her campaign recently announced.

Primary Races Reap Big Ad Spending Already

With Republicans citing inflation and Democrats deploring the recent Roe v. Wade decision, both parties will see how their attack ads on those issues fare when several states conduct key primary races in August.

On Aug. 2, for example, Kansas voters will decide whether there should be a constitutional amendment banning abortion in that state. They will be the first in the country to decide whether protections for abortion should continue in light of the Supreme Court’s recent Roe v. Wade decision.

The amendment sparked much political debate, in part because of its timing in a primary election, instead of a general election in which there are more — and a better cross section — of voters. Republicans back the amendment so they can get to work on banning abortion as soon as the Kansas Legislature convenes in January.

Other Aug. 2 primary races to watch, and gain their fair share of ad spend, include: Michigan, where there’s a GOP race to take on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, plus two key party races for the U.S. House; Missouri, where there’s a crowded field of Republicans running for Senate; and, Washington, where two GOP House members who voted for Donald Trump’s impeachment are facing Trump-backed challenges.

On Aug. 9, primaries will include a Democratic race in Wisconsin to see who will challenge Republican Sen. Ron Johnson; another GOP contest in Wisconsin to challenge Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, and intra-party races in Connecticut, Minnesota and Vermont.

Aug. 16 primary races will feature several prominent female candidates. They include GOP Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary in Wyoming, GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s primary in Alaska and a special general election for Alaska’s at-large congressional seat, which pits former governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin against Nick Begich III.

On Aug. 23, a special election for an upstate New York seat in the U.S. House will give the victor only four months in office, filling a seat that Democrat Antonio Delgado vacated when he became New York’s lieutenant governor.

The New York race will feature Republican Marc Molinaro, whose campaign has focused on the economy and taming inflation, against Democrat Pat Ryan, whose message has been that he’ll preserve abortion rights.

As Politico recently described that New York race, and perhaps all midterm races in general: “This election could answer the biggest midterm question: Abortion or the economy?”

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