The Georgia Senate Runoffs are fully underway and have seen a combined total of $315M in media spending. The special general runoff is the focus of this post and has seen a total of $170M in spending.
During election night, or rather election week, there was near certainty that the Georgia Special Senate election would not produce a winner. With 20 declared candidates, it was almost assured the race would require a January Runoff between the top two vote-getters. Even with such a crowded field, only three candidates saw serious levels of spending: Senator Kelly Loeffler (R), Representative Doug Collins (R), and Reverend Raphael Warnock (D). The understanding that this race would not be settled on November 3rd was demonstrated by the total open-general spending of $56.9M, almost $90M less than the total general spending in the race between Perdue and Ossoff. It was one of the least expensive competitive races of the 2020 cycle.
Media Spending in the General Election
Doug Collins, representing Georgia’s 9th District from 2013-2021, challenged sitting Senator Kelly Loeffler in the Special General, drastically increasing the total spending and attention on the race. Collins’ campaign spent just over $3.2M on his Senate bid. While this is a small number compared to what saw spent by other Senate candidates this cycle, Collins’ presence in the race forced Loeffler to engage in an intraparty contest instead of focusing on defeating Warnock outright. Her campaign began running ads in January, spending a total of $16.8M by November. Georgia United Victory, a SuperPAC formed in July 2020 and financed by Loeffler’s husband, poured nearly $10M into the election, largely running negative ads against Collins. With two prominent GOP members running against each other, it was nearly guaranteed the Republican base would split, setting up a runoff between a Republican and Democrat.
Of the outside media spending in the open-general of the Special election, none of the advertiser we tracked supported Collins. From January through July, five advertisers collectively spent nearly $4.9M on ads supportive of Loeffler. Club for Growth was the largest advertiser spending $2.37M. After July, Georgia United Victory took over outside spending for the remainder of the election. By November 3rd, roughly $32.5M was spent to reelect Loeffler, more than half of the overall open-general spending and nearly $29M more than the total spent by the Collins campaign. Loeffler qualified for the runoff receiving 25.9% of the vote. Collins failed to qualify after only receiving 20% of the vote.
Democratic candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock faced a far less contentious open-general. Even though he spent the most of any individual campaign at $17.5M, the absence of another major Democratic candidate coupled with the battle between Loeffler and Collins almost assured his place in the January runoff. Seven outside advertisers collectively spent $1.1M on ads supporting Warnock’s Senate bid. Majority Forward was the largest advertiser spending $557K in October and November. Senate Majority PAC (SMP) was the next highest, spending $283K over the same period. The five remaining advertisers spent around $65K. Warnock qualified for the runoff after receiving 32.9% of the vote, the highest among all candidates.
The General Runoff Election
After a runoff was officially declared, advertisers and candidates wasted little time to begin spending. The first ads from the Warnock campaign began airing on November 5th, while the first ads from the Loeffler campaign started airing a week after on November 12th. Both campaigns and outside advertisers have been far more aggressive with their spending in the runoff. To date, there has been more than $170.2M spent in total on the special general runoff, more than triple the overall amount spent during the open-general election
As of December 4th, the Loeffler and Warnock campaigns have booked spending through January 5th and have spent a combined $104.5M. Warnock has spent $59.5M while Loeffler has spent $44.9M.
We have also tracked significant spending by outside advertisers totaling $65.7M so far for both parties, although Republican advertisers are outspending Democratic advertisers by a margin of $52.7M to $13M. While this discrepancy seems substantial, it is slightly misleading. The largest Republican advertiser, American Crossroads, has spent $44.2M on ads that began airing on November 24th and are set to run through January 5th. As of now, no Democratic advertiser has booked their spending through January 5th. Instead have been adding to their current spends on a weekly basis. The largest Democratic advertiser, Georgia Honor, an SMP affiliate founded with the purpose of helping elect Warnock, has spent $8.9M on ads airing between November 18th and December 8th.
We are 32 days away from when Georgians return to the polls and have seen nearly $516.8M in media spending between both Senate Races across all stages of the election, $315.2M of which has been spent in the runoffs alone. As Republicans and Democrats continue fight for control over the Senate, we anticipate the total to substantially grow, potentially making these contests the two most expensive Senate races in American history.