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Americans are seeing more congressional political ads than ever before: Report

Americans are seeing more congressional ads than ever before, in part because of the California Senate race, according to a report released Thursday.

As of March 10, more than $163 million was spent on broadcast television advertising, according to the Wesleyan Media Project report.

There have been more than 316,000 ad airings in congressional races so far, a 28 percent increase from the 2022 cycle. The number is outpacing the record-setting 2018 cycle by more than 50,000 aired ads, the report said.

One big reason for the jump is the California Senate race, where a field of Democrats were competing for a chance to win a rare open Senate seat.

The race attracted a number of heavyweights with healthy fundraising bases, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who advanced to a runoff last week against Republican Steve Garvey. Schiff’s campaign ran ads attacking Garvey that also elevated the Republican, who ended up finishing ahead of Democratic Rep. Katie Porter (Calif.), a rising star in the party.

Even before Schiff and Garvey advanced, the race accumulated more than $31 million in spending on advertising, and more will be spent as the two enter a head-to-head race.

The race in Ohio, where Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) is running for reelection, is the second most expensive race so far. On the GOP side of the race, the three-way battle between state Sen. Matt Dolan, businessman Bernie Moreno and Secretary of State Frank LaRose has ballooned the airwaves with more than $22 million to date.

The third-ranked Senate race is Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester (D) hopes to keep his post against a challenge from former President Trump-backed candidate Tim Sheehy, who is expected to be the GOP nominee after Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) dropped his bid. The contest has seen more than $13 million in spending so far.

More than $11 million has been spent on the Senate race in Maryland to date, and more than $6 million in the West Virgina Senate race.

On the House side, New York’s 3rd Congressional District special election led the way with more than $15.5 million spent. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.) secured his return to Capitol Hill by winning the special election.

In a distant second, North Carolina’s 13th District contest has attracted more than $4 million in spending. California’s 22nd District is third with $2.4 million. Alabama’s 1st and 2nd District contests have drawn $2.3 million and $1.8 million, respectively.

The spending will increase as the contests get closer to November.

“We expect a lot of outside group spending throughout the election year, as every competitive congressional race could mean the difference between one of the parties winning or losing control of the chamber,” said Travis Ridout, the co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

While advertising has ramped up in the battles for the House and Senate, presidential ads have fallen in what has been a relatively sleepy primary season.

Just 216,000 presidential ads have been on broadcast TV this cycle, a drop-off from the more than 1 million aired to this point in the 2020 race.

The big difference is that former President Trump has run away with the GOP nomination, as has President Biden with the Democratic nomination. Both have already secured presumed nominee status by winning the necessary number of delegates.

Pro-Republican ads have been centered on immigration in Senate races.

“It’s clear that Republicans, at least at this moment, are running on immigration and public safety,” Ridout said. “It’s an issue combination that Republicans tried in some places in 2022 without much luck, but the politics of immigration now may be different than they were two years ago.”

National defense and budget came in second and third in frequency. Those supporting Democratic candidates for the upper chamber have shelled out ads mainly focused on prescription drugs, housing and jobs, according to the report.

The television data in the report came from Vivvix CMAG.

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