Could Top $1.7 Billion According to TNS Media Intelligence

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The $515 million spent on this year’s election –- a record for an off-year election -- will pale compared to the predicted outlay for 2006, a midterm election that could reach the lofty $1.7 billion spent during the presidential election year of 2004.
The advertising spending of next year's midterm elections may exceed that of the last presidential election.

“It’s the only sector of the advertising economy that is growing,” said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNS Media Intelligence Campaign Media Analysis Group. He said political spending next year is likely to top $1.4 billion and could easily beat the $1.7 billion registered in 2004 that included the hard-fought race between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry.

Expected to fuel the increase is the number of big-state governor races, including Minnesota, Texas, New York, California and Illinois, some U.S. Senate races in Florida and New York, and the possibility that President Bush’s image problem could increase the number of competitive congressional districts, he said.

Already advertising
Already more than a dozen candidates are on the air with ads, and next year’s outlays could be further bolstered by efforts of prospective 2008 presidential candidates to aid campaigns in primary states. Both political parties are also anticipated to spend early to put themselves in the best political position for 2008. And there is a possibility of more referenda on high-profile issues like gas and drug prices, as well as judicial issues that could prompt spending.

“Both parties are going to make an aggressive effort to retake the Senate and House,” Mr. Tracey said.

In addition, campaign contribution limits have more than doubled since the last midterm election in 2002 when about $1 billion was spent.

Mr. Tracey said the $515 million spent this year was a record for a year without congressional elections -- and a real anomaly. “This is usually the worst year in the four-year political cycle,” he said.

Overall spending on national issues at $150 million topped local spending. But there was still plenty of local spending to go around. In California, more than $93 million was spent surrounding a special election that featured several initiatives pushed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that voters rejected at the polls. There was also heavy spending in the New Jersey governor’s race, won by Democrat Jon Corzine; the Virginia governor’s race, won by Democrat Tim Kaine, and the New York mayoral race, won by incumbent Republican Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who easily outspent his opponent.

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