Washington – Super PACs are once again breaking records – topping $1.1 billion – but there’s a new wrinkle. Instead of aiming their main financial artillery at the presidential race, Super PACs, political parties and outside donors have committed more than half a billion dollars to the battle for control of the Senate – more money than they’re spending on the race for the White House.
When it comes to buying TV ads for current Senate campaigns, outside groups have outspent the Democratic and Republican parties and the candidates combined, according to Michael Franz, a Bowdoin College professor who tracks broadcast ad spending. “The proportion of outside spending is at an all-time high,” says Franz. And 80% of all that money goes for negative attack ads, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Niagara of money now cascading into Senate races is astonishing and unprecedented – nearly $100 million for tiny New Hampshire (pop 1.3 million); $90 million for Pennsylvania; nearly $80 million for Ohio; $65 million for Nevada; and $150 million more for Florida, Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina, according to marketers who track television ad bookings, cited by The Hill newspaper, chronicler of Capitol Hill. The peril is acute for the GOP because Republicans swept the 2010 mid-term elections and now have 24 Senate seats at risk this year, versus only 10 for the Democrats. They faced a tough fight even before Donald Trump’s lewd sex tape and incendiary stump talk caused his poll numbers to swoon and down-ballot Republican candidates to run for cover.