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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Following the Money in Midterm Senate Races

One way to monitor trends in midterm election campaigns is to ‘follow the money.’ For a good update on where the two parties perceive their best opportunities and biggest liabilities in senate races, read Adam Wollner’s “Here’s where the battle for Senate control will be won – or lost” at CNN Politics. As Wollner reports:

In the battle for the evenly divided Senate, the major Democratic and Republican committees and groups have now all announced their first round of advertising reservations for the general election. Where party leaders and strategists decide to commit a major chunk of their campaign budgets provides the clearest look yet at which races are the most important to determining Senate control.

Here is how much money each group initially plans to spend on ads by state:

*National Republican Senatorial Committee: Georgia ($9.5 million); Wisconsin ($9 million); New Hampshire ($9 million); Arizona ($8 million); Pennsylvania ($8 million); North Carolina ($6.5 million); Nevada ($3 million)

*Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: Nevada ($8.4 million); Arizona ($7.5 million); Georgia ($7 million); New Hampshire ($4 million); Pennsylvania ($3 million); Wisconsin ($3 million)

*Senate Leadership Fund (Republican super PAC): Georgia ($37.1 million); North Carolina ($27.6 million); Pennsylvania ($24.6 million); Wisconsin ($15.2 million); Nevada ($15.1 million); Arizona ($14.4 million); Alaska ($7.4 million)

*Senate Majority PAC (Democratic super PAC): Pennsylvania ($26 million); Georgia ($24.7 million); Arizona ($22.3 million); Nevada ($21 million); Wisconsin ($12.6 million)

Let’s break down that one-third of a billion dollars (!) in ad spending a bit.

There are five states that appear on the list for all four groups: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those are all states Joe Biden carried in the 2020 presidential election – and by some of his narrowest margins.

Democratic incumbents are running in Arizona (Sen. Mark Kelly), Georgia (Sen. Raphael Warnock) and Nevada (Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto). Pennsylvania, where Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring, and Wisconsin, where Sen. Ron Johnson is running for reelection, are the only two Republican-held seats the Democratic groups have on their initial target list.

Sure, spending priorities will change as more polls come in over the next six months. At the moment, however, this campaign investment snapshot provides a peek at what party strategists see as their best candidates and weakest incumbents. As Wollner concludes, “given that Republicans need only a net gain of one seat to flip the chamber, and that the states listed here have also been key battlegrounds in recent elections, these are the races that will be at the core of the fight for the Senate majority.”

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