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Political Spend No Longer Keeping Pace With 2020 As Presidential Primary Season Fades.

With former President Donald Trump scoring consecutive Republican Party primary victories and President Joe Biden not facing any serious challenger among the Democrats, there has been the expected shift in the political advertising marketplace. With the primary season now in full swing, the ad tracking firm AdImpact says ad spending has not kept pace with previous political cycles. For the first time since the 2024 election cycle began last year, spending is now less than what had been spent at this point in the 2020 cycle. AdImpact says $1.85 billion has been invested in advertising by the candidates and their allies through March 1. But four years ago, the total was up to $1.96 billion.

Today is so-called Super Tuesday, when more than a dozen states will hold their primaries. But the dynamics of the race have resulted in it becoming a bit of a snoozer, both politically and in terms of tracking ad spending.

AdImpact says the South Carolina race was the last one where it saw any substantial ad spending. It reports $24.7 million in total ad expenditures in the state. Critically, former U.N. Ambassador Nicki Haley has slowly been spending less. Her $15.8 million – by far the most spent in her native South Carolina – was less than half the $36.9 million she spent during the Iowa Caucus, and it was about half the $31.6 million she spent in New Hampshire. Haley has also lost a source of ad funding after the national super PAC Americans for Prosperity Action, which AdImpact says has spent $13.5 million on ads backing her candidacy, announced two weeks ago it was going to shift its advertising to instead start backing congressional candidates.

“Looking ahead to future primaries, there appears to be a lull in Presidential spending,” says AdImpact. It logs just $1.3 million in ads booked in upcoming Republican primaries, with 92% of those dollars coming from the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers Association PAC which is attacking Biden over his push to convert Americans to drive electric cars. AdImpact says Haley has reserved $90,000 worth of ads while Trump has nothing on the books right now.

The presidential primary race may be cooling off, but the battle for a California U.S. Senate seat has been heating up. During the past two weeks, AdImpact says the top three political ad markets in the country have been led by Los Angeles, which has seen $16.8 million in political buys, followed by San Francisco ($9.1 million) and Sacramento ($8.1 million).

“The California Senate top-two primary has become both expensive and competitive between three top candidates: Adam Schiff (D), Katie Porter (D), and Steve Garvey (R),” its analysis says. AdImpact says Schiff has spent $9 million on ads seeking to fill the seat held by the late Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). His main Democratic rival is Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), who has spent $5.9 million.

The third biggest spender is the super PAC Fairshake, which is backed by cryptocurrency industry leaders who ran $5.7 million worth of anti-Porter ads. The group has attacked the progressive lawmaker for her alleged “hostility” toward cryptocurrency.

The race has become California’s most expensive Senate contest in history, with this year’s primary total 242% more than the last three combined, according to AdImpact. It calculates the Democrats have spent $64.3 million in the California Senate primary. That is far more than the $20,100 it says has been spent by Republicans who face a steep climb in grabbing the seat in deep blue California.

Not all the spending is in California ahead of Super Tuesday. In Texas, AdImpact has tracked $51 million of ad buys, including more than $30 million that has been spent in Texas State House primaries. Meantime, North Carolina has also been active with $29 million of ad buys logged so far. Most of that has come in its congressional primaries.

AdImpact projects a record $10.2 billion will be spent during the 2023-2024 election cycle across all media, including radio. The forecast, if accurate, would mean political ad spending will grow 13% from the record $9.02 billion that was spent during the last presidential election cycle four years ago. AdImpact forecasts radio will get $116 million from House and Senate contests with another $84 million from the presidential race.

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