Georgia has become the surprising epicenter of the political world, with its two Senate runoffs set to decide control of the Senate next month. Following what was widely considered to be a disappointing performance by Senate Democrats in 2020, Democrats will have to flip both seats in previously dark-red Georgia to take the Senate and, because of their grasp on the presidency and the House, full control of the government. However, Republicans’ history of strong performances in runoff elections will leave them encouraged that control of the Senate is theirs to win. No matter the victor, both parties are contesting the elections with an incredible barrage of resources. There is still a month until election day and more than $340M has been spent and reserved on ads from 11/4-1/5. When all is said and done, these runoffs will almost undoubtedly be the two most highly-priced Senate races of all time. 

Quite remarkably, Jon Ossoff has been here before. In 2017, the special election for GA-06 saw more than $40M in spending, $10M more than any other House race ever. A few years later, he is involved in the most expensive Senate race of all time ($311M), again following a contentious Presidential election and with the eyes of the entire political world on his race. However, it is possible that this year’s cash deluge results in a different outcome for Ossoff than in 2017. 



The chart above breaks down ad spending in the runoffs from 11/4-1/5. A few trends clearly stand out. In both races, the Republican campaign maintains a large spending advantage — $28M in the Ossoff vs. Perdue race and $34M in the Warnock vs. Loeffler race. However, both Democratic candidates have spent more than their GOP counterparts, which helps narrow the overall cash difference as candidates receive better advertising rates than issue groups. Republican issue groups have spent much more heavily than their Democratic counterparts, with commanding leads in outside money spent in both races. There is still plenty of time for Democratic issue groups to spend heavily, but it is also always possible that they will not invest as heavily in paid media as might have been expected given how saturated the airwaves already are. This is a strategy we have seen in the past from Democrats in highly scrutinized races in traditionally red states, where they refrain from the heavy use of paid media to avoid nationalizing a race.


 


The ad messaging from both parties looks quite like what we have seen nationwide. The Democratic candidates are running most heavily on a healthcare/coronavirus prevention message, while the Republicans have worked to tie Ossoff and Warnock to the "radical left," politicians like AOC, and policies such as defunding the police. 

Ossoff vs. Perdue

David Perdue's stock trading has been an increasing focus of Ossoff's ads, mentioned in both "Mom's Kitchen" and "Defeat This Virus." It is also the sole focus of Georgia Way's most aired ad over the past week, "Investigating the Stock Trades." It remains to be seen if this message resonates with Georgian voters, but it could see increased coverage in the last month of the campaign. Perdue and GOP outside groups have emphasized Georgia's importance in controlling the Senate and blocking Democrats from passing a "radical" policy agenda. Perdue also hit back at the claims made by Ossoff and Georgia Way about his stock trading in the ad "Lies", saying he was exonerated by the Senate Ethics Committee and that these claims prove Ossoff is untrustworthy.

Warnock vs. Loeffler

This race is increasingly nasty and largely hinges on character. Warnock has run ads such as "Love Thy Neighbor" while also pushing back on negative attacks in ads like "Highly Misleading." Much like the Perdue race, Democratic outside groups have targeted Loeffler's stock trading in negative ads such as "Stop the Rot" from Georgia Honor. Loeffler has run ads like "Dangerous," using clips of Warnock's speeches to tie him to the left. Republican groups American Crossroads and the NRSC have run similar messages as well.

In the weeks before the Senate's balance of power is decided, millions and millions more dollars will be poured into Georgia. Democrats have used their resources to attack Perdue and Loeffler's stock trades and emphasize the Coronavirus pandemic, while Republican ads have tied Ossoff and Warnock to the radical left and demonstrated the importance of holding onto these two seats. Whether Georgia's historical conservatism will outweigh its recent blue shift from the presidential race will likely decide the elections — and control of the Senate — on January 5th.


Kyle Roberts is the CEO of AdImpact.

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