May 7, 2019

The power brokers of election ad money

Expand chart
Adapted from Advertising Analytics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Much more money flows into races that the Cook Political Report rates as a toss-up or moves closer to toss-up territory — especially on the House side, according to exclusive data from Advertising Analytics, a data firm specializing in media ad spending and real time ad detection that specializes in politics.

Why it matters: In addition to traditional gurus like Charlie Cook, new factors in the internet era — virality, digital fundraising operations and activist digital media outlets — are increasingly affecting how money moves in politics.

The details: In 2018, 40% of all spending on House races went to races that Cook labeled a "toss-up." By comparison, only 20% went to races that were ranked solidly Republican or Democrat.

  • In 2018, a whopping 80% of all spending on Senate races went to races that Cook labeled a "toss-up." By comparison, only 3% went to races that were solidly Republican or Democrat.

Race ratings are often reinforced by positive media coverage and polling, as well as additional factors like FEC reports, ads and spending data, district and state demographics, past election results and interviews. The closer a race the Cook Political Report foresees as a result of those factors, the more money one can be expect will flow into that race.

  • The same thing goes for flipping Congressional chambers on a bigger scale. Because polling and ratings forecasted that Democrats were expected to flip the House, Democrats outspent Republicans $555 million to $403 million to ensure that outcome.
  • By comparison, both parties spent an estimated $461 million on Senate races.

The big picture: Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report, notes that Washington analysts' fundraising influence, while meaningful, has diminished over the past two decades.

  • "Frankly, I think Washington-based political newsletters have less influence on campaign fundraising than they did 20 years ago," Cook tells Axios.
  • "More money is coming from the man or woman sitting at home on their laptop watching an MJ Hegar or Beto O'Rourke (Senate) video that has gone viral, and then going on ActBlue and sending $10.... That really mounts up."

Between the lines: Data from Advertising Analytics also shows that candidate spending over the past three cycles is increasing at a much higher rate than spending from issue groups. 

  • Since 2014, super PACS (political action committees) and party committees have increased ad spending by 65%.  However, since 2014, Democratic candidates have increased ad spending 170%, far outpacing the trend.  

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Biden says he's starting VP search this month

Joe Biden. Photo: Scott Olson / Staff

Joe Biden said he's spoken to Sen. Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama about selecting a running mate — and that he wants to build "a bench of younger, really qualified people" who can lead the nation over the course of the next four presidential cycles.

Driving the news: Biden spoke about the state of the 2020 race during a virtual fundraiser on Friday night that was opened to pooled coverage.

Trump ousting intelligence community inspector general

Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community. Photo: Bill Clark / Getty Images

President Trump notified key lawmakers on Friday that he’s firing Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, who first alerted Congress last September of an "urgent" complaint from an official involving Trump's correspondence with the Ukrainian president.

Why it matters: The move, to take effect in 30 days, comes amid a broader initiative to purge the administration of officials seen as disloyal to the president.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Axios Visuals

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,097,909 — Total deaths: 59,131 — Total recoveries: 226,106Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 277,828 — Total deaths: 7,406 — Total recoveries: 9,772Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The federal government will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
  4. 2020 latest: "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said of the 2020 election, as more states hold primary elections by mail. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that every county in the state opted to expand mail-in voting for the state's June 2 primary.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
  8. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Senators call for independent investigation into firing of Navy captain.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.