Campaigning heats up as off-election year sees surge in ad spending

Campaigning heats up as off-election year sees surge in ad spending

July 16, 2021

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It’s an off-election year, but when it comes to political ad spending, it certainly seems like we’re in-cycle.

Nearly $415 million has been spent on political ads the first six months of this year by campaigns, political parties and outside groups such as super PACs, according to figures shared with FOX Business from AdImpact, a leading national ad tracking firm.

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The total is less than a third of the more than $1.5 billion spent the first three months of last year – but 2020 was a general election year, with races for president, the Senate and House and gubernatorial contests.

But the money dished out so far on political ads this year is nearly twice the $229 million spent during the first half of 2019, a comparable period during the 2020 election cycle. And it’s nearly three times the $145 million spent during the first six months of 2017, during the similar period in the last midterm election cycle.

"Political ad spending in 2021 is pacing an astonishing 81% ahead of the first two quarters of 2019. Though there are off-year elections in Virginia, New Jersey and California, we are seeing earlier-than-ever spending in the House and Senate too," AdImpact's Rachel Haskins told FOX Business.

And she predicted that "if the current trajectory holds, 2022 will be another historic cycle" for ad spending.

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All 435 House seats are up for grabs in the 2022 midterms, as well as 34 seats in the Senate.

Two factors contributing to the ad surge – the extremely early start for the 2022 cycle and the full-plate agenda that President Biden and House and Senate Democrats are trying to pass through Congress.

"Both parties recognize the high stakes in next year’s midterms and they want to define the election year political landscape early and on their own terms," longtime Republican strategist Brian Walsh told Fox News. 

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"For Republicans, that means holding Democratic lawmakers accountable for supporting record government spending and tax hikes while outside groups on the left are trying to give those same lawmakers air cover," Walsh, a veteran of number GOP congressional and Senate campaigns, emphasized.

But it’s not just Congress – 38 states are holding elections for governor this year and next. Plus, California is holding a special gubernatorial recall election in September, with ad spending already soaring in a state with a whopping 16 media markets, including two in the top 10 nationally.

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