Throughout the 2018 election cycle we will be providing weekly analysis of the latest trends in political media spending. Delta, our proprietary political spending database, is the fastest and most accurate in the business. This allows our competitive team to provide the most timely and accurate information, giving you actionable intelligence before anyone else. These reports will highlight the most interesting races and trends of the cycle, highlighting information you need to know. Rather than get bogged down in the weeds, we will focus on one notable trend for each of the Senate, Governor, and House races.
State of the Senate
An unexpected state has currently seen the most spending of any 2018 Senate race, Wisconsin. Though a purple state unexpectedly won by President Trump, conventional wisdom has not pegged Wisconsin as one of the top pick-up opportunities in the 2018 cycle, lagging behind West Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, and Indiana amongst others. Despite this, Republican issue groups are spending heavily against Senator Baldwin. Wisconsin has already seen over $7.5M in spending, all from outside groups, the lion’s share of which has come from conservative groups attacking Senator Baldwin or supporting her GOP challenger, Kevin Nicholson. Though the Cook Political Report has eight Democratic seats ranked as more likely to flip than Baldwin’s, clearly some groups see Senator Baldwin as vulnerable. It will be intriguing to see whether a Republican challenger is able to capitalize on the political opportunity, or whether outside groups will shift their attention to riper pick-up opportunities.
Illinois is Breaking Records
2018 Governor’s races so far have seen $90M in spending, more than Senate and House races combined. By far the largest driver of this spending is the Illinois gubernatorial race, which has seen an incredible $54M in spending already. This is tens of millions more than any race we’ve tracked has seen at this point in the race. This race could shatter all spending records if self-funding, multi-millionaires Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker face off in the general election. However, both of these candidates are facing surprisingly resilient challengers: Jeanne Ives on the right and Daniel Biss and Chris Kennedy on the left. These insurgent candidates may lack the deep pockets of the front-runners, but they have succeeded in tapping into powerful grassroots movements. These primaries could provide important insight into the political environment if voters choose to buck the millionaire frontrunners, and instead support more insurgent candidates.
Spending in the House has yet to begin in earnest. The exception is PA CD-18, the latest special election to take on an air of outsized importance. This race has made up a full third of congressional spending so far this cycle, about $7.6M. The special election in PA-18 has taken on many of the spending characteristics of the Alabama Senate special election. In a rural district won comfortably by President Trump, Democrat Conor Lamb is distancing himself from the Democratic establishment by declining help from outside groups. On the other hand, Republican candidate Rick Saccone has not spent heavily on his own, and has instead been buoyed by outside groups. Overall, Republican advertisers have outspent Democratic advertisers $5.5M to $2.0M. Of the $5.5M, however, a full $5M has come from outside groups, while 90% of Democratic spending has come from the candidate. Justified or not, if Lamb wins his tactic of running away from Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic establishment will likely be copied by Democrats nationwide.
* All data provided by [AdImpact, formerly Advertising Analytics]