North Carolina’s insane campaign ad windfall by the numbers
From a political perspective, the U.S.A. isn’t really the U.S.A. at the moment—and not just because that whole “United” thing isn’t really flying circa 2020. Rather, if you consider what the two major political parties care about this fall, the country is more like S.S.A.A.O.: Swing States and Assorted Others. Or maybe just N.C.A.T.R.: North Carolina and the Rest.
We’ve come to that disconcerting conclusion by following the money—specifically the money devoted to campaign advertising.
First, a reminder that in the previous edition of Campaign Ad Scorecard, we noted that Team Trump and Team Biden had together booked more than a quarter billion dollars (!) worth of TV ads from Sept. 1 through Election Day across just 10 swing states. (And that tally doesn’t even include digital ad spending or any sort of ad outlay by pro-Trump and pro-Biden PACs.) Florida is technically the top magnet for presidential campaign ad dollars, but on a per-capita basis North Carolina pulls ahead of the Sunshine State.
Now consider the U.S. Senate races. According to the latest Ad Age Campaign Ad Scorecard analysis—an ongoing project led by Ad Age Datacenter Director of Data Management Kevin Brown in partnership with Kantar/CMAG—North Carolinians will have to endure $73.8 million worth of campaign ads from Sept. 8 through Election Day. (Our tally is a bit more granular at the state level, and though that sum is dominated by TV ad spend, it also includes radio. And because at the state level PACs often overshadow individual campaigns when it comes to spending, our U.S. Senate race totals include PAC outlays.)
But it gets worse (or better, if you happen to be a seller of North Carolina ad inventory): From Jan. 1, 2019, through Election Day 2020, North Carolina will have seen at least $162.3 million in U.S. Senate campaign ads, thanks to the astonishing sums spent before and during the primary season.
The last two men standing—the winners of their respective party primaries—are Republican Thom Tillis, the incumbent, and Democrat Cal Cunningham. They are, of course, neck-and-neck in the polls.
It’s worth noting that, as Politico reported last week, “President Donald Trump encouraged North Carolina residents to attempt to vote both via the mail and in person, seemingly urging them to commit voter fraud as a test of mail-in voting systems in a trip to the state on Wednesday.” The state’s Board of Elections chief then had to issue a statement pointing out that “Attempting to vote twice in an election or soliciting someone to do so ... is a violation of North Carolina law.”
But hey, who doesn’t love a BOGO deal, right?