As J. P. Green noted yesterday, the Georgia Senate run-off provides an instructive test of just how much negative advertising voters can tolerate. But it also provides a classic test of the power of money in politics. As Robbie Brown explains in the New York Times:
Although both parties have flooded Georgia with national strategists, speakers and volunteers, Republicans have outgunned Democrats in fund-raising and advertising….In the first 18 days of the runoff, the Chambliss campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee spent $2 million on television advertisements, according to CMAG, an advertising tracking firm. During the same period, the Martin campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent $1.8 million.
But outside donations skyrocketed, especially among Republican-supporting groups, according to the Federal Election Commission. Freedom’s Watch, a conservative lobbying group, has spent $600,000 on television spots for Mr. Chambliss, according to CMAG, and the National Rifle Association has spent more than $30,000.
And John Fritze adds in his USA Today article “‘Unbelievable’ sum of money in Ga. runoff“:
A USA TODAY analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) shows: Chambliss raised $1.6 million in large contributions — amounts of $1,000 or more — from Nov. 13 through Nov. 21 compared with $462,000 for Martin. The FEC requires candidates to report large contributions within 48 hours once the campaign is in the final days.
Independent groups such as the National Rifle Association’s political action committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee spent $2.5 million from Nov. 8 through Nov. 26 in support of Chambliss — more than twice what outside groups have spent for Martin.
• Conservative and pro-business organizations, such as Americans for Job Security, have spent $1.8 million on issue ads this month that stake out positions aligned with Chambliss.
“The amount of money coming into this (race) is unbelievable,” said Bill Bozarth, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a non-partisan watchdog group. “It almost makes me nostalgic for the days when we were a backwater election state.”
…Martin spokesman Matt Canter said many of the Democratic campaign’s contributions fall under the $1,000 reporting threshold set by the FEC for last-minute contributions. He said Martin has raised about $2.5 million since the general election when those smaller donations are included, although that information won’t be available until the post-election campaign reports are filed.
“We are raising the resources we need to compete,” Canter said. “Jim Martin’s message is not getting drowned out.”
Chambliss, who first won his seat in 2002, held the financial advantage heading into the runoff. FEC reports show Chambliss had $1.46 million available in his account as of Nov. 12, compared with $617,000 for Martin.
And, in today’s Wall St. Journal, Brody Mullins and Alex Roth explain in their article “Outsiders Look to Sway Georgia Race With Ads, Manpower“:
Since Republicans took a beating at the polls nationwide Nov. 4, business groups and conservative organizations have spent $4.2 million here on Sen. Chambliss, nearly four times as much as labor unions and liberal advocacy groups have spent on Mr. Martin since Election Day.
…The chamber is paying $750,000 to air television advertisements backing Sen. Chambliss. The National Republican Trust, an outside political group that ran ads against President-elect Barack Obama, has funded more than $1 million in advertisements for the Republican. Other groups funding television advertisements or political mailings on Sen. Chambliss’s behalf include the National Right to Life and the National Rifle Association.
It’s possible, as Green notes, that Chambliss’s harsh attack ads will turn off some voters. But Martin’s best hope may be that his campaign’s GOTV effort will trump the GOP millions. As Brown notes, quoting one expert on GA politics:
Experts say the winner will be the candidate who best rallies his base. “It’s not about changing anybody’s mind at this point,” said Merle Black, an expert in Southern politics at Emory University. “It’s all about turnout.”