Midterm Elections on Track for $3 Billion in Spending

Five Questions With CMAG's Evan Tracey

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With so many races going on across the country, I asked Kantar Media/CMAG's Evan Tracey to answer a few quick questions about the state of the nation's political ad spending. It looks like we can add "higher ad spending than last time" to death and taxes on the list of life's certainties. Tracey said we're on track to top the $2.5 billion spent in 2008.

Ad Age: What's the overall spending shaping up to be this year and what's it like compared to previous years.

Evan Tracey: Spending so far on political and issue TV ads is $864 million, $50 million more than 2008, and $185 million ahead of 2006 at the same period of time. Historically, two-thirds of all election spending comes during the final 60 days, so we are on track to approach $3 billion in total spending on political and issue ads.

Ad Age: Which party is spending more?

Tracey: Fueled by competitive primary's and self-funding candidates, the GOP is spending $140 million more so far.

Ad Age: Aside from the RNC and DNC, who's the big spender this year and what issues are being pushed?

Tracey: Meg Whitman is the leading spender so far with $54 million. The big issues so far this year are focused on government spending/management (stimulus package, state waste, bailouts). Health care and energy are also popular issues in this year's races. This will be the most negative election in years driven by anti-incumbency, bad economy and angry voters.

Ad Age: Will we see inventory problems on local stations?

Tracey: You will definitely see states with inventory issues in October due to a crush of nationally important races and state and local candidates. Most states will have some issues, but some – Florida, Ohio, California, New Hampshire, Nevada, Indiana, Illinois -- will be worse than others.

Ad Age: Where are the biggest, most expensive battles being fought? And, conversely, any lucky states out there that are relatively quiet this year.

Tracey: See above for the big-money battles, but almost all states will see election ad dollars. The nation has 38 governor's races in 2010, and governor's races will be extremely important because of redistricting that will occur after the 2010 census. Governors hold a lot of power over this process, and it can be the difference for control of the House in the future. The Senate is quickly shifting to becoming the biggest battleground as party operatives from both the Democrats and the Republicans are now saying the House already looks [like it's will switch hands]. This could mean more ad money for states like Arkansas, Washington, California, Wisconsin, Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

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