In a striking departure from the 2012 election, super PACs and other non-candidate organizations have spent more on U.S. Senate races in July, August and September than on the presidential election, a new analysis shows.
The spending pattern may be the best evidence yet that the big money that would normally go to supporting the GOP frontrunner has instead migrated down ballot, especially to U.S. Senate races where there is a strong chance Democrats may take control.
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, at least initially showed disdain for super PACs, but has since changed his position and has actively courted them.
And yet, no group dedicated primarily to supporting Trump’s presidential candidacy ranks among the top 15 biggest spenders among super PACs and similar political groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Meanwhile super PACs supporting Senate and even House candidates are flush with cash as the Nov. 8 election looms.
Smart money bet?
Travis Ridout, a co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks advertising in federal elections, said donors may just be attempting to spend their money wisely.
“When one [presidential] candidate is ahead by 6 percentage points, it just doesn’t make all that much sense to try to invest hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “Whereas you’ve got a Senate race in, take Missouri, which looks to be within 2 percentage points. There’s a race where advertising could have an impact and it’s going to cost you a lot less to have an impact.”
The Wesleyan Media Project reported that, as of late August, involvement in Senate races by “outside” groups — they include political action committees, super PACs, labor unions, trade associations and social welfare nonprofits, including “dark money groups” that aren’t required to disclose their donors — had reached an all-time high, accounting for nearly 50 percent of TV ads to that point.
As a whole, as of mid-October, the number of presidential ads run by candidates, political parties and outside groups such as super PACs was less than half of what it was in 2012.