January 5th finally brought a close to the heavily anticipated and historically expensive Senate Runoffs in Georgia. With nearly $500M spent between the two races, Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeated Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Their victories secured President-Elect Joe Biden a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress for at least the first two years of his term. Georgia spending data shows total Republicans spending topped Democratic spending by just over $50M: $275.6M to $222.7M. However, Democratic candidates outspent their Republican counterparts by a massive margin in both races. Ossoff outspent Perdue by nearly $40M and Warnock outspent Loeffler by over $32M.
Georgia Spending Data by Candidate
The discrepancy was especially noticeable when comparing candidate spending on a week-to-week basis across both races. Excluding the final week of the race, Ossoff outspent Perdue by at least $1.6M each week, with the largest gap coming the week of December 20th when Ossoff spent $9.4M more than Perdue. During the month of December, Ossoff surpassed $12M in spending each week, while Perdue’s spending peaked at $9.1M during the final week. The only instance Perdue outspent Ossoff was in the first week in January when Perdue spent $4.9M compared to Ossoff’s $4.5M. Throughout the entire runoff, Perdue never broke the $10M mark for weekly spend, while Ossoff crossed that threshold four out of the nine weeks.
In the Senate Special runoff, Warnock, like Ossoff, consistently outspent his Republican opponent on a weekly basis, but not by the same margin. Warnock outspent Loeffler by at least $1.3M each week, excluding the last week of the race where he only outspent her by $200K. The largest gap between the two came the week of December 20th, when Warnock spent $11.7M to Loeffler’s $7.6M. Warnock surpassed $10M in weekly spend three out of the nine weeks of the runoff. Loeffler’s spend peaked at $8.5M.
The weekly candidate spends during the runoffs were by far the most we have seen over that period during the 2020 election cycle. Prior to the runoffs, no candidate from either party crossed the $10M threshold. The closest weekly spends came in the South Carolina Senate Race when Democrat Jamie Harrison spent $9.8M the week of October 4th, and when Republican Lindsay Graham spent $8.2M the week of October 25th. The sheer amount of money spent by a candidate per week in the runoffs is unparalleled in political media spending history.
Spending by Issue Group
While Democratic candidates outspent Republican candidates by nearly $61M, non-candidate Republican advertisers easily made up for this difference . Our Georgia spending data shows Republicans spending $113.8M more than their Democratic counterparts. During the nine-week runoff, the top three outside Republican advertisers, American Crossroads, Senate Leadership Fund, and Peachtree PAC, spent a combined $133.4M. The top three Democratic outside advertisers, Georgia Honor, The Georgia Way, and the DSCC totaled $42.5M, a whopping $90.9M less than the top Republican spenders.
Republican outside spenders focused most of their efforts on the later weeks of the race, with their largest expenditures happening in December. Across the first three weeks of the runoffs, Republican non-candidate advertisers steadily increased their weekly spending going from $8M to $12.7M then to $14.6M. There was a $10.7M jump the week of December 6th, going from $14.6M to $25.3M. The following three weeks saw spends of $32.7M, $37.1M, and $35.2M, respectively. We saw much more consistent growth in the weekly spend coming from Democratic outside advertisers; however, their spends were routinely far smaller than their Republican counter parts. They only crossed the $10M threshold twice, with their highest spend totaling $12.7M for the last week of December.
With the addition of the $498.23M spent on the runoffs, $701.41M total was spent between both Georgia Senate races in the 2020 cycle. That, amazingly, makes up 7.8% of the $9B we saw come in for the entirety of the 2020 political cycle. The runoffs not only delivered historic results at the ballot box, but they also established a new record for the most money spent on a Senate race in US history.