Still-undecided Florida races saw a last-minute ad spending surge

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In the final days of the campaign, the U.S. Senate campaign of Andrew Gillum booked an extra $10.9 million in TV ads.
In the final days of the campaign, the U.S. Senate campaign of Andrew Gillum booked an extra $10.9 million in TV ads. Credit: Gillum via YouTube

The midterm election season drags on, excruciatingly, in Florida (see "Recount off to a slow start in Florida's Senate, governor races," per USA Today.) Also excruciating: TV viewing and radio listening for Florida residents in the days leading up to Election Day.

According to an Ad Age Datacenter analysis of last-minute TV and radio ad buys in the state tracked by Kantar Media, total spending surged by $49 million for just two races—the U.S. Senate seat in play and the governorship—from Oct. 30 through Election Day.

Ad spending in the Sunshine State was already out of control (see Ad Age's previous coverage: "Florida, Illinois slammed with $942 million in midterm ads"). But in just the final eight days, the campaigns for Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and his opponent, outgoing Republican Governor Rick Scott (he's term-limited), together with groups backing them (e.g., PACs), booked $34.1 million in additional TV and radio ad time. Scott and pro-Scott groups accounted for $20.8 million of that tally, while Nelson and pro-Nelson groups ponied up $13.3 million.

In the race for the governorship, the campaigns of former Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis (he resigned his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 10 to focus on the election) and Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, together with groups backing them, spent $15.2 million on last-minute TV and radio ad time (Oct. 30 through Election Day). Gillum and pro-Gillum groups are responsible for $10.9 million of that surge, while DeSantis and pro-DeSantis groups account for $4.3 million.

In the end, across 23 key U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races tracked by Ad Age Datacenter, there was a last-minute TV/radio buying frenzy (again, from Oct. 30 through Election Day) that totalled $96.6 million. Republicans had a slight edge ($48.7 million) over Democrats ($47.9) in spending to inflict more campaign ads on TV viewers.

In nearly all of those states, Republicans and Democrats have closure (more or less): They know if the tens of millions they spent on ads were all worth it, or a total waste. Meanwhile, in regard to Florida, even as the recounts grind on, President Trump has taken to Twitter to call the winner—in his view, at least—for the U.S. Senate seat in play:

Ad Age Datacenter (specifically Kevin Brown, Bradley Johnson and Catherine Wolf) partnered with Kantar Media's CMAG (Campaign Media Analysis Group) for this report. Spending includes broadcast TV, local/regional cable and satellite TV, radio and Spanish-language local TV.

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