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Where $7.5 Billion in Midterm Campaign Ads Are Hitting Hardest

As the midterm campaign heads into its final weeks, political ad spending for the current two-year election cycle is on pace to more than double from the 2018 midterms. Spending is already close to double the 2018 cycle as Democrats focus on abortion, while GOP stresses gasoline, grocery prices.

AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm, says about $7.5 billion has been spent so far by candidates and outside groups trying to influence local, state and federal elections. That compares with about $4 billion in the 2018 midterm cycle and about $9 billion in the 2020 presidential cycle.

Some details on how and where money is being spent:

The home stretch

The level of advertising has surged since Labor Day, the unofficial start for the final phase of the campaign.

A fall surge in advertisingSource: AdImpactNote: Represents rolling seven-day average for local, state and federal political advertising on broadcast TV, cable,​satellite, radio and digital.

The Las Vegas market has had the heaviest advertising since Labor Day. Nevada is home to competitive races for governor and both chambers of Congress. Philadelphia, a top market in a state with open-seat races for Senate and governor, saw the second-most spots. Boston, in third place, covers parts of New Hampshire, where there are competitive House and Senate races.

In races for the House and Senate, the top 10 themes most commonly mentioned by Democrats and their allies in broadcast and cable TV ads since Labor Day:







Special interests


Law enforcement

Social Security

In races for the House and Senate, the top 10 themes most commonly mentioned by Republicans and their allies in broadcast and cable TV ads since Labor Day:







Defund the police

Criminal-justice reform

As part of efforts to tie Democrats to what has been the highest inflation in four decades, images of gasoline pumps and grocery-store aisles have become political clichés this year because they have been used in so many Republican ads. A search of ad transcripts since Labor Day for spots run by Republicans and their allies in House and Senate races shows “gas” and “gasoline” have received about twice as many mentions as “groceries” and “food.”

Going negative

In races for the House and Senate, Republicans have run a larger proportion of ads with a negative tone than Democrats, according to AdImpact. With Democrats controlling Congress and the White House, they are more likely to run ads touting their accomplishments, while Republicans are trying to draw a contrast with the party in power.

These are the top five Senate races for the share of total broadcast and cable ads since Labor Day that were rated negative in tone by AdImpact: Alaska (75%), Wisconsin (71%), Ohio (68%), Colorado (64%), Arizona (64%).

The most expensive Senate races

Since Labor Day, the most expensive Senate race for advertising has been Georgia’s contest between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Senate races are typically much more expensive than House races because of their statewide nature.

A Texas-size price tag for the governor’s office

Since Labor Day, the most expensive gubernatorial race for advertising has been the one in Texas featuring incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

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