Political ad spending soaring in this year's midterm election

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Republican Senate candidate Matt Dolan vows in a new campaign commercial that he’ll "fight Joe Biden’s energy agenda because this war on energy is really an attack your wallet."

Dolan, a state senator and partial owner of Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, says he’s spending $1.5 million to run his ad statewide in Ohio ahead of the May 3 primary in the crowded and expensive race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman.

POLITICAL AD SPENDING IN THE OFF-ELECTION YEAR OF 2021 BREAKS RECORDS 

Ad spending has gone through the roof in the Buckeye State’s Senate race. But it’s not just Ohio.

Republican Senate candidate Matt Dolan of Ohio takes aim at President Biden’s energy policy in a new campaign commercial. (Matt Dolan campaign / Fox News)

According to figures from AdImpact, a nationally known ad tracking firm, $450.1 million was spent during the first three months of this year by campaigns, outside groups such as super PACs, and party committees to run ads.

THIS STATE IS HOME TO THE MOST EXPENSIVE SENATE RACE IN THE NATION

That’s a massive 184% increase from the $158.1 million spent to run ads in the same period during the 2018 midterm cycle.

Both houses of Congress are up for grabs in November’s midterm elections, as the Democrats try to hold onto their razor-thin majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate. There’s also a plethora of competitive gubernatorial and other statewide races this year. The GOP – and to a lesser degree the Democrats – have plenty of competitive and jam-packed nomination races with primary dates fast approaching. 

Put it all together, and you get a massive tab to run campaign ads on TV, digital, and radio.

Longtime Republican consultant Zack Roday told FOX Business that due to numerous House and Senate retirements, "there’s a lot of opportunity." He also pointed out that "campaigns start earlier" nowadays, further fueling ad spending.

And Roday emphasized that there’s more money in politics than ever before to pay for all the ad spending, due to the explosion in recent years in small dollar donors. "The ecosystem has been supercharged with money, both from the big dollar donors and from grassroots contributors," he said.

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Longtime Republican consultant John Brabender, a veteran of numerous presidential and statewide campaigns, pointed to another reason for the ad spending explosion.

"Because of the current demand, the rates go up. There’s great demand, because there are so many big races, therefore the cost goes up," he said. "It’s supply and demand. The stations can actually charge a premium this cycle compared to other cycles."

The market around Phoenix, Arizona, has seen the most ad spending, per AdImpact. With wide open primary races for Senate and governor topping a very crowded ballot, $58.3 million was spent during the first quarter of this year to run ads in the Phoenix media market.

Atlanta, Georgia, was second, at $48.9 million. Georgia is home to an expensive and divisive GOP gubernatorial nomination battle and an increasingly expensive Republican Senate primary, and competitive primaries for other statewide offices and congressional seats. 

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Pennsylvania, with costly GOP and Democratic Senate primaries and a combustible Republican gubernatorial primary, has three markets in AdImpact’s top 10 list: Philadelphia (fourth at $40.1 million), Pittsburgh (sixth at $28.6 million), and Harrisburg (tenth at $15.2 million).

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