Democrats in six of the nine most hotly contested Senate elections have more final advertising dollars than their opponents, according to USA Today. Data from Kantar Media/Campaign Media Analysis Group, a nonpartisan firm that tracks television advertising, shows the largest advantage belongs to incumbent Democratic Senator from West Virginia Joe Manchin, who is on pace to spend three times more over the next couple of weeks than Republican challenger Patrick Morrissey. Democratic hopefuls also have the final advertising edge in Arizona, Florida, Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota, while Republicans hold the edge in Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee.
Despite the edge in final advertising funds in the nine closest races, Democrats will still need some major upsets to flip the Senate in their favor in 2018. Most of the 35 Senate races on next month’s ballot feature Democrats defending their seat, including 10 contests in which the Democratic incumbent holds a seat in a state that Donald Trump won in the 2016 election. Despite these challenges, Democrats are favored to capture a House majority, while Republican control of the Senate currently hangs by the narrowest of margins at 51-49. Yet a Democratic-controlled Senate seems unlikely under the circumstances.
“This is a tough, tough map for Democrats,” said Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “If they can even hold 49 seats, they will be very, very lucky.”
Democrats are drawing some hope from the fact that President Trump’s 2016 electoral win in key states doesn’t seem to have gained traction for Republicans. Senate races in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin do not seem to show any fundraising gains or increased advertising for Republicans. In Ohio, where Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown is defending his seat, Brown is on track to spend more than $6 million in campaign advertising over the final six weeks leading up to the election, while his challenger, Republican Jim Renacci, had booked less than half a million. In Wisconsin, Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin had more than $2 million in ads to air over the course of the final two weeks prior to the election, while Republican Leah Vukmir had none.
Final advertising dollars won’t necessarily add up to election victory, but they are an indicator of how hard each party is contesting each open seat, which may be, in turn, an indicator of how confident each party is of winning that seat.
In Arizona, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is battling Republican Martha McSally for the open seat vacated by the retirement of GOP Senator Jeff Flake. In Indiana, Republican challenger Mike Braun is outspending incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly, while that script is flipped in Nevada, where Democratic challenger Jackie Rosen is spending nearly twice as much as Republican incumbent Dean Heller.