Georgians are being inundated with political
advertising ahead of the state’s two crucial U.S.
Senate runoff elections on Tuesday, as estimates put the total media
spending at around $500 million so far.Former President Barack Obama narrates the
latest TV ad for Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, who is running against
incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue.
“You can send Jon Ossoff to the Senate to beat
this virus and rebuild our economy,” Obama says. Meanwhile, former University of Georgia football
star Herschel Walker appears in a spot for Perdue and GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, whose
Democratic challenger is Rev. Raphael Warnock. The three pass a football around
while explaining the election’s importance to viewers. “Too much is at stake.
Vote Kelly and David. Help Georgia win this for America,” says Walker, a longtime supporter of President Donald Trump and a former employee of
Trump, when the president owned the United States Football League’s New Jersey
Mailers, digital ads, radio ads and
ever-present TV commercials look set to keep coming through Tuesday. Is it all worth
it? “The simplest answer is that no, at this point
the ads etc. are not motivating voters in one direction or another,” said
Robert M. Howard, a professor of political science at Georgia State University.
“There is a significant diminishing return to the money spent in this
particular cycle.” But Howard added: “Do not get me wrong — money
is important. You want to get your message out, and you do not want to be
solely defined by your opponent.” The two Georgia runoffs are
crucial because Democratic victories in both races would give that party
control of the chamber. There would be a 50-50 split, but a Democratic vice
president, Kamala Harris, would cast tie-breaking votes. Republicans can
remain the majority party by winning just one of the two Georgia races, and
they then would provide a check on policies backed by Democratic
President-elect Joe Biden and the Democratic-run House of Representatives.
Other advertising efforts in Georgia have included recordings from Trump in support of Loeffler and Perdue, as well as recordings from Biden in support of Ossoff and Warnock. Thousands of pounds of paper have been used to make the campaign flyers that have found their way into Georgia mailboxes these past two months. The spending on advertising says a lot about
the impact of the results from this election and the popularity of the
candidates involved, according to John Link, vice president of sales at
AdImpact, an ad-tracking company that previously
was known as Advertising Analytics. “Spend levels are clearly attributable to the
successes of fundraising efforts,” Link said. “As long as donors remain as
active as we have seen recently, you should expect spending levels to remain
historically high.” The principal campaign committee for Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker, has disclosed raising $107 million from Oct. 15 through Dec. 16, above the $68 million for Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General
Warnock, pastor at Atlanta’s storied Ebenezer Baptist Church, brought in $103 million during the same period vs. $64 million for Loeffler, a former financial-services executive whose husband heads the New York Stock Exchange’s parent company
Beyond the candidates’ main campaign
committees, political action committees and super PACs have been busy attempting
to reach voters with ads. Republican PACs like American Crossroads, Senate
Leadership Fund and Peachtree PAC have been major players, along with
Democratic PACs such as The Georgia Way, New South Super PAC, Priorities USA and
the New Power PAC. Some analysts have predicted
that overall outlays by campaign committees and other groups could reach $1 billion. “Both sides have so much money and so much media attention, that both sides — Republican incumbents and the Democratic opponents — have had no trouble getting their message out,” said Howard, the Georgia State professor. More than 2.8 million
Georgians, or 36% of the state’s registered voters, have cast ballots early in
the Senate runoffs as of Thursday, according to U.S. Elections Project
data. Georgia law has required the runoffs because no
candidate received more than 50% of the vote in November. About 105,000 runoff early voters did not vote in November, according to figures compiled by Georgia Votes. The advertisements dominating TV in Georgia must have some kind of impact on those once uninterested voters, even if the overall effect is unclear. “At some point, voters just tune out all the ads and commercials, and mailed flyers and emails,” Howard said. “Probably the best use of money now is for it to be used on get-out-the-vote efforts, and that seems to be happening for both sides.” Now read: Betting markets see Republican win in Georgia’s crucial runoffs, while polls give edge to Democrats Also: Biden to campaign in Atlanta on eve of Georgia’s Senate runoffs Plus: Trump plans to campaign on Monday in Georgia county with low early voter turnout MarketWatch’s Victor Reklaitis contributed to this report.