May 16, 2022
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania voters will head to the polls to nominate the Democrat and Republican nominees to fill the open Senate seat left by retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey. The Keystone State’s Senate Primary election spending analysis has been 2022’s second most expensive Primary election, totaling $78.74M in advertising expenditure on broadcast, cable, radio, satellite, digital, and ATV. The election saw 340 unique TV ads with a total 72,763 airings across PA markets. Thirty-nine different advertisers placed ads, with 14 unique advertisers spending at least $1M. Twelve different campaigns spent a combined total $42.67M while 27 Issue Groups spent a total $36.07M. Republican advertisers greatly outspent Democrats during the Primary, with a total $64.12M compared to $14.63M by Democrats. This year’s Senate Primary alone has seen nearly six times the total $13.2M spent in the PA 2018 Senate Primary and General elections combined.
On November 30, 2021, the election had seen just $4.1M in total advertising spending. On that day, Dr. Mehmet Oz placed his first broadcast buy in his bid for the GOP nomination. Spending in December 2021 more than doubled the election’s previous total with $4.31M spent. Every month in 2022 saw at least $8M spent, with a highpoint of $19.45M spent last month. Trailing only Ohio’s Senate Primary ($85.7M) in total spending, the PA Senate Primary has garnered significant national attention as the seat is crucial to each party’s national strategy. In 2016, President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in PA, while President Biden won the state in 2020. With concurrent advertising for expensive Gubernatorial and Congressional Primaries, PA has seen more total Primary spending than any other state in the country, totaling $130.2M. Ohio ($104.4M), Georgia ($101.8M), Texas ($87.3M), and Illinois ($84M) round out the rest of the top five for primary elections spending analysis.
The GOP Primary saw $64.12M spent, highlighted by ten different advertisers spending at least $1M. Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show, led in campaign expenditures with $15.04M spent. Hedge-fund CEO Dave McCormick, who served as the former Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs during the Bush Administration, and former US Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands were second and third respectively. The top spending advertiser of the Primary was Honor Pennsylvania, a Pro-McCormick Issue Group. The group was responsible for nearly 30% of the total GOP Primary expenditures. Pro-Oz group American Leadership Action was the second highest spending Issue Group, followed by Pennsylvania Conservative Fund (Anti-Oz) and Club for Growth Action, which supported conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette. The PA GOP Senate Primary saw 199 unique ads with a total 63,457 airings on TV.
Election Spending Analysis Through Airings
For the majority of the GOP Primary, spending and polling data suggested a two-horse race between Oz and McCormick. Both candidates likened their policies to those of Donald Trump. Oz compared himself to the former President, stating “like President Trump, I came from outside politics,” while a McCormick ad stated “I’ll fight for America first energy policies like President Trump.” On April 9th, Oz received the coveted endorsement from the former President. Following the endorsement, the Oz campaign released an ad stating “Trump endorsed Dr. Oz for Senate because Trump knows who the real conservative is.” Despite not receiving the endorsement, McCormick continued to run ads with pictures of President Trump and video footage of the former President congratulating McCormick on his service to the country. More than 33% of TV advertisement airings in the GOP and Dem Primary elections mentioned President Trump.
Last week, a Fox News poll showed Kathy Barnette gained significant ground, improving 10% since March. The Barnette campaign spent a total $197K in advertisement spending, a small figure compared to $15.03M for Oz and $13.86M for McCormick. Club for Growth Action begin running ads on May 11th, spending $2.42M supporting Barnette. Another Issue Group, Keystone Liberty Group, also placed ads supporting Barnette, totaling $15K on cable. USA Freedom PAC launched a $1.27M ad campaign on May 13th accusing Barnette of being “out of touch with Pennsylvania.” Former President Trump warned “Kathy Barnette will never be able to win the General Election against the Radical Left” last week. Despite not seeing much advertising attention for most of the election, Barnette’s recent rise in the polls resulted in over $3.5M spent between Club for Growth Action and USA Freedom Fund in the last week. A recent Emerson Poll shows Oz at 28% support, followed by Barnette with 24% and McCormick with 21%.
The Democratic Primary saw a total $14.63M spent. The top spending advertiser was John Fetterman, PA’s current Lieutenant Governor. Fetterman’s campaign was responsible for more than half the total spending in the Democratic Primary. US Rep. Conor Lamb (PA CD-17) and PA State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta were second and third in total campaign spending. Lamb saw support from the top spending Issue Group, Pennsylvania Progress. Web3 Forward supported Fetterman while American Bridge 21st Century and Future Majority PAC placed ads supporting the Democratic Party. The Dem Primary saw 141 unique ads with 9,306 airings on TV.
Fetterman’s campaign outspent the Lamb campaign and Pennsylvania Progress’ combined expenditure by $2.46M. Fetterman’s ads touted the candidate as “a Democrat with backbone” who “does the right thing no matter what.” Pennsylvania Progress claimed Fetterman is a “socialist” and that “Lamb’s the only candidate who’s defeated Trump Republicans three times.” Fetterman has maintained a steady lead throughout the primary. On Sunday, Fetterman announced he was recovering after a stroke, yet is “well on [his] way to a full recovery,” stating his “campaign isn’t slowing down one bit.” According to recent polling, he is leading by 39 points.
Of the six mediatypes utilized during the election, Broadcast ($47.33M) and Cable ($16.55M) saw the highest spending. Four different advertisers spent at least $1M on ATV. Honor Pennsylvania led in ATV spending with $2.2M, followed by Dr. Oz ($1.8M), Dave McCormick ($1.7M), and John Fetterman ($1.3M). Six different PA media markets saw at least $2M worth of advertising. The Philadelphia market led in overall spending with $24.6M. Pittsburgh saw $17.1M while Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre Scranton each saw over $10M placed. Including money booked for this fall, Philadelphia has seen the fourth most money booked around the country in 2022 ($67M). Pittsburgh is seventh ($51M). Largely due to the Senate Primary, the Harrisburg market was tenth in 2022 national spending in early April. As spending has increased around the country, it has now fallen to 16th.
While the PA Senate Primary saw the second-most spending of any Primary around the country, advertisers have already booked over $50M in airtime for the General election this fall. Despite a strong spending advantage in the Primary, GOP spending for the General is currently at $21M while Dem spending is at $29M. Dem groups Senate Majority PAC and the DSCC have placed $25.9M and $3.2M respectively. GOP Group Senate Leadership Fund has placed $21.1M in PA markets. The 2022 PA Senate race has seen a combined total $129M in advertising spending. As of now, it is 2022’s most expensive race, leading other expensive Senate races in Georgia, Arizona, and Ohio. There has already been an 834% increase in spending compared to the $13.2M spent in PA’s 2018 Senate race. Regardless of who the nominees are for the PA Senate General election this fall, it promises to be one of the nation’s most expensive.