Republicans pour millions into final days of Senate battle


The Senate Leadership Fund, a top GOP super PAC, is spending tens of millions in the final week of the race as it seeks to shore up vulnerable GOP senators who will make or break if Republicans keep the majority.

It will spend more than $35.5 million on TV and radio ads between Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, according to data from Advertising Analytics. That figure includes buys placed earlier in the cycle for the final week of the campaign.

The GOP group, which has ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), also reported independent expenditures (IE) of roughly $30 million in key battleground races to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) between Oct. 26 and Nov. 1, according to FEC records.

“SLF has been flooding the zone over the final stretch of the battle to save the majority, running custom-tailored advertising campaigns to highlight the hypocrisy and dangerously liberal ideas of Democratic Senate candidates," Senate Leadership Fund Communications Director Jack Pandol said in a statement. 

The GOP spending is spread out across key battleground races, with North Carolina topping the list in both TV and radio ad reservations in the final week and where they reported the most new spending to the FEC in roughly the same time period. 

The Senate Leadership Fund is spending roughly $6.7 million on TV and radio ads in the state, according to Advertising Analytics data. They also reported nearly $7 million through IE filings to the FEC since Oct. 26, spending that went, in part, toward text messages and ads opposing Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham. 

The group is also spending more than $4 million on TV and radio ads in the final week in Georgia, North Carolina and Iowa each, where GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Thom Tillis and Joni Ernst respectively are fighting to hold onto their seats. 

They've also reported seven-figure IE spending in each of the states to the FEC since Oct. 26. Part of the reported spending includes TV and radio ads, but it includes text messages, phone calls and online ads. In both Georgia and North Carolina the money was negative spending against the Democratic candidates, but in Iowa it was spending in support of Ernst. 

Some of the funding reported to the FEC by the Senate Leadership Fund since Oct. 26 notes in the filings that while the public distribution date of the money falls within the final week of the election that the date of "disbursement or obligation" is Oct. 22. A spokesman for the group didn't immediately respond to a question about the disclosures.  

Even as the GOP group is spending heavily to support GOP senators, it's still getting outspent narrowly overall by its Democratic counterpart, the Senate Majority PAC, in both TV and radio ad buys in the final week and newly reported IE filings since Oct. 26.  

Senate Majority PAC is spending $37.75 million on TV and radio ads in the final week, according to Advertising Analytics data. It's also reported spending of roughly $36.6 million to the FEC in IE filings made between Oct. 26 and Nov. 1.

Republicans are outspending Democrats in some states on a race-by-race basis. 

For example, in TV and radio ad buys for the final week, Republicans are spending significantly more than Democrats in South Carolina as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) faces a closer than expected election. SLF is spending nearly $4.69 million on TV and radio buys in the final week compared to SMP which is spending $723,166. Republicans are also reporting IE spending in the final week in South Carolina. 

They're also outspending Democrats in Michigan, where Republicans believe Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) is vulnerable to an upset. Peters is leading GOP nominee John James by 5.4 points according to a RealClearPolitics average of the polling. 

Republicans view Michigan as their best shot of picking up a Senate seat behind Alabama, a red state where neither party is spending money in the final week.

But the GOP group is also getting outspent in key races including Georgia, Maine and Iowa. In TV and radio ad spending, the Senate Majority PAC is spending $6.6 million, $4.9 million and $5 million, respectively, compared to the Senate Leadership Fund's spending of $4.8 million, $1.1 million and $4.2 million in Georgia, Maine and Iowa.  

“Democrats expanded the map this cycle and we’re heading into tonight playing offense across the country. As Republicans try to defend a tanked economy and failed response to COVID, we’re doing a full-court press in battleground states to turn out voters and get our candidates across the finish line," said Matt Corridoni, a spokesman for Senate Majority PAC, said in a statement. 

Both groups have states they are spending money in during the final week that their counterparts aren't. 

The Senate Leadership Fund has ad buys in both Kansas and Alaska, two states that are currently in GOP hands but are seeing closer-than-expected races as Democrats have been able to expand the map. Senate Majority PAC doesn't have ad buys in either of the states for the final week and has not reported any spending to FEC. 

But Senate Majority PAC does have ad buys in New Mexico, a safe Democratic seat, and Texas, where GOP Sen. John Cornyn is up for reelection. The GOP's Senate Leadership Fund doesn't have ad buys in either state, and hasn't reported spending in the state through its IE filings to the FEC since Oct. 26. 

The mountain of final funding from both groups comes amid what has been a record-breaking battle for the Senate majority, fueled in part by a wave of small-dollar donors for Democrats that has allowed the party to vastly expand the map of states in play on election night.  

The Senate Leadership Fund has reported a total of nearly $242 million in independent expenditure spending during the 2020 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That includes $219.7 million against Democrats, roughly $15 million for Republicans and $744,083 against GOP Rep. Doug Collins, who is trying to unseat Loeffler. 

The Senate Majority PAC has spent a total of nearly $228.5 million in independent expenditures in the 2020 races, including more than $14.9 for Democrats and nearly $213.59 million against Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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