Thanks to immense grassroots fundraising, Democrats are dominating Republicans on the airwaves
Democratic candidates have been raising money at an extraordinary pace this year, and NBC has now given us a look at just what that means in terms of the ad war. In the 26 congressional districts that were most saturated by TV commercials from Sept. 1-Oct. 25, Democratic candidates and allied groups outspent the Republicans 55 percent to 45. But the real advantage was twice as large, because Team Blue was able to run 60 percent of the TV spots, a concept known as “share of voice.”
The reason Democrats are punching above their weight like this is because Republicans haven’t benefited from anything like the grassroots fundraising explosion that has aided Democrats, so they’re more dependent on super PACs to help them get their message out. But even if these PACs have helped Republicans close the financial gap, not all dollars are created equal.
Why? If a campaign spends $1 million on TV or radio ads, that money will go much further than the same amount spent by an outside group because, under FCC rules, federal candidates are entitled to what’s known as the “lowest unit rate,” or the cheapest available ad rates a station can offer. By contrast, super PACs (and state candidates) have to pay full freight. This year, that’s giving Democrats running for the House more bang for their buck when they purchase ad time, since a larger share of buys on the Democratic side have come from campaigns.
All of these campaign commercials are also increasing the cost of ads, and that means it will keep costing more and more to buy ads until we hit Nov. 6. Campaigns and outside groups often will reserve ad time months ahead of Election Day while TV time is still relatively cheap, but super PACs can’t anticipate every battleground that far in advance.