July 20, 2022
With the primary election wrapping up in May, all eyes are turning to the advertising spending in the Georgia Senate general election between Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R). Both parties consider this a “must-win” election, as the Senate currently holds an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Georgians are well-aware of the importance of this election, too. The 2022 primary turnout was more than three times the 2018 turnout and even higher than the 2020 turnout, a presidential year.
Due to its national importance, we have seen more spending in the Georgia Senate race than any other race around the country so far. There has been approximately $139M spent in the general election, which is $20M more than the next most expensive election overall (the IL Governor Primary) and almost $50M more than the next most expensive Senate general election.
There is a wide variety of spenders in the high-profile general election. Both parties’ Senate PACs, the DSCC and NRSC, are spending equal amounts in Georgia, as Issue Groups are spending the bulk of the money in the election. Between the candidates themselves, there is a stark difference in advertising spending. Warnock’s campaign is responsible for 38% of the total Democratic spend on ads while Walker’s campaign is only responsible for 4% of the total Republican spend on ads.
It is known that Warnock had a bigger fundraising backing compared to Walker; Warnock disclosed that his campaign had about $23M and Walker disclosed that his campaign about $7M. That difference coincides with Warnock’s $29M spending advantage. Issue Groups are responsible for the vast majority of total Republican spending, attempting to level the playing field against Warnock. Former President Trump endorsed Walker back in September.
Broadcast spending leads all media types in general spending with $101M in aggregated spending. The next two media types are cable and radio, with $19.8M and $8.4M placed respectively. There has also been nearly $2M spent on satellite, $1.7M by Democratic groups and $200K by Republican groups. The parties diverge in strategy in terms of secondary media types. Republican spending makes up the entirety of radio buys while Democratic advertisers have prioritized cable, outspending Republicans by $11.2M.
The content of the ads tell clear stories about how each party wants to frame this election. Republicans are attacking Warnock through ads about inflation and current events, while one of the incumbent Senator’s ads accuses Walker of greatly exaggerating the number of employees in his company. As the campaign trail heats up for both candidates, there is a good chance that both parties will continue to spend massive amounts of money on this election. Winning this Senate seat is critical for both parties’ national goals, and seemingly nothing will impede either party’s spending efforts. We will continue to monitor any changes in spending between now and the general election on November 8th.