The air war in the Texas Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) has ramped up. With the primary on May 29, April was when most Texas political observers expected ad spending to begin in earnest. The campaigns have not disappointed.
A source who closely watches Lone Star State media buys says the campaigns have cumulatively spent the following in the GOP primary:
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has spent more than $5 million as of today. $4 million of that has been on broadcast and $1 million has been on cable.
Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert has spent and booked $1.65 million worth of ads through the primary.
Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz has spent $524,000, but he has also had the support of outside groups.
Former ESPN analyst Craig James has spent $269,000 but is not currently on the air.
Regardless of these numbers, the Texas ad market is notoriously expensive.
Dewhurst just made a substantial six-figure ad buy. The campaign has been on broadcast television for about five weeks. His latest ad is written as though his opponent was President Barack Obama himself. In it, Dewhurst promises to challenge the president’s agenda and doesn’t mention any of his GOP rivals.
Leppert put up an ad Monday in which he called his rivals “Empty Suits,” which was part of what a source in the campaign described as “a multimillion-dollar paid media campaign” on broadcast and cable.
Cruz’s latest ad is called “Mojave” and touts him as a defender of veterans’ religious freedoms.
The biggest question in this race is whether Dewhurst can break 50 percent in the primary. If he does, he will avoid a runoff with one other opponent. Dewhurst’s financial advantage has been formidable, but those in his rival campaigns say that if they can take Dewhurst one on one in a runoff, he is much more vulnerable.