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With Presidential Election Rematch Set, Ad Spend Focus Turns To Other 2024 Races.

With Democratic President Joe Biden and former Republican President Donald Trump set to do battle again in November in 2024's biggest political contest, both parties' attention has turned to key Senate races in as many as 10 states, according to Steve Passwaiter, President of Washington, DC-based political advisory firm Silver Oak Political.

“When it comes to the U.S. Senate, Democrats are playing defense this year, while Republicans find themselves in an advantageous position to take control,” Passwaiter writes in a guest column for Ad Age. “The money is focused on those states where Democrats are supporting incumbent senators under pressure,” he says, citing such a situation in West Virginia, where either Republican Gov. Jim Justice or his primary opponent, Rep. Alex Mooney, are poised to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

With projected 2024 political ad spend estimates ranging from $10-$16 billion, Passwaiter notes that there's already big money having gone to Senate races, such as the $200 million spent in Ohio on Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and several Republican candidates. Much of the spend was driven by, Passwaiter says, “a raucous Republican primary [during which] Democrats actually ran ads in [its] closing days boosting Trump-backed Bernie Moreno, who they believe is less electable than more moderate alternatives. It was really a match between Ohio’s Republican establishment and Trump.” With another round of political ads ready to go as Moreno is now set to face Brown in the Senate showdown, Passwaiter asks, “Will Ohio voters split their tickets to keep Brown in the Senate?”

Montana's Senate contest between Democratic incumbent John Tester and former Navy Seal Tim Sheehy is likely to be most expensive in the state's history, with $120 million already committed to political ads, says Passwaiter. “Expect a full array of advertisers attempting to convince voters to retain Tester or replace him with Sheehy,” he says, noting that campaign spend could pass the near-$150 million on the state's 2020 Senate contest between then-Sen. Steve Daines and Gov. Steve Bullock.

Aside from Senate races in Florida and Texas, where respective incumbents Ted Cruz and Rick Scott are, Passwaiter says, “thought to be somewhat vulnerable, but both seats are rated as 'likely Republican',” contests in five of the eight states Democrats have focused on for Biden's campaign. Those are Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin, each of which may also see big spending on the Senate side.

Arizona's election to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Krysten Sinema pits Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego against 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, while Michigan's Senate race between Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin and former Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, Passwaiter says, “may be impacted by factors outside Slotkin’s control as the war between Israel and Hamas continues. The discontent in Michigan’s sizable Arab American community is a variable that could cost both President Biden and Slotkin if those voters decide to stay home on Election Day.”

With regard to the Presidential race, Passwaiter points out that Trump is at a “distinct disadvantage” compared to Biden, who has “nine figures of cash on hand,” noting that FF PAC, a Democratic Super PAC, leads all spenders with $150 million targeting the aforementioned five states along with Georgia, North Carolina, and Nebraska. The inclusion of Nebraska is “due to the way [it] divides its electoral votes,” Passwaiter says. “Using the congressional district method, it allocates two electoral votes to the state’s popular vote winner, and then one electoral vote to the popular vote winner in each of three districts. Democrats plan to compete aggressively, believing they can provide the President with a big electoral vote in a close election.”

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