Oct 3, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans narrow digital cash divide

Illustration of the Republican elephant icon with cursor arrows in place of stars

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats hold an advantage in campaign spending on Facebook, Google and connected television platforms, but Republicans have closed the gap in several key Senate races in the final stretch of the midterms, Axios has learned.

The big picture: Democrats outspent Republicans $10.1 million to $8.2 million online in battleground Senate races in the week of Sept. 18-24, according to data compiled by the Democratic marketing firm Bully Pulpit Interactive.

  • But in three of the biggest Senate contests — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina — Republicans are now outspending their Democratic rivals.

What they're saying: "The voters Democrats need to persuade and mobilize now through election day are more likely to spend their time on streaming and digital channels than the voters Republicans need to engage," said Joe St. Marie, the senior director of product at BPI.

  • "Younger voters and voters of color are more likely to spend their time on connected TV devices and on social, in particular, so it's crucial for Democrats to maintain a spending advantage on those channels to win.”

By the numbers: Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is the biggest beneficiary of the GOP's digital investments, with $2.2 million spent on his behalf from September 18-24.

  • The only other Republican Senate candidates to hit the million-dollar mark in that time period are Herschel Walker ($1.3 million) in Georgia and Dr. Mehmet Oz ($1.2 million) in Pennsylvania.
  • Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), two of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, each benefited from $1.8 million in digital ads from their campaigns or outside groups between Sept. 18-24.

Among Democratic non-incumbents, Wisconsin Senate nominee Mandela Barnes comfortably leads the pack with $1.6 million spent on digital between Sept. 18-24.

  • That easily surpasses the digital advertising spent on behalf of Pennsylvania Senate nominee John Fetterman ($932,000), Florida Senate nominee Val Demings ($473,000) and North Carolina Senate nominee Cheri Beasley ($430,000) during the same period.

The bottom line: Senate Republicans held a $5.3 million advertising advantage over Democrats on traditional broadcast and cable platforms between Sept. 18-24, according to an ad-tracking source. That means Democrats are betting on newer means of reaching out to voters to win close contests.

Go deeper