Sink is the Democratic nominee in the competitive special election in Florida. (Tim Boyles/Getty Images File Photo)
Ad wars have escalated in a highly competitive special election in Florida, with Democrats spending more overall, but Republicans quickly catching up with their ad buys.
The already profuse ad spending demonstrates the high stakes for both parties in this March 11 special election. Although the election is one month away, elections officials started to send out mail-in ballots last week for the 13th District contest.
That means television time — especially early advertisements — come at a premium in this Tampa-area media market.
Cumulatively, the Democratic nominee, Alex Sink, and her allies have spent about $1 million more on television advertisements than Republicans.
But the GOP’s nominee, lobbyist David Jolly, and his allies have spent more than Democrats in the past two weeks. Most recently, the National Republican Congressional Committee aired a spot that links Sink to national Democrats and the president’s 2010 health care law.
Here’s a breakdown of approximately how much each party has spent on television advertisements in the general election as of Tuesday afternoon, according to multiple media-buying sources from both parties who are monitoring the race:
Republican total spent on ads: $2.35 million to $2.7 million
David Jolly: $176,000-$181,000
National Republican Congressional Committee: $1.07 million
American Action Network: $357,000
American Crossroads: $357,000
U.S. Chamber of Commerce: $745,000-$778,000
Democrats total spent on ads: $3.65 million to $3.75 million
Alex Sink Campaign: $1.033 million
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: $1.96 million to $2.044 million
House Majority PAC: $672,000
The range of amounts for some organizations represents some minor discrepancies in the figures provided by the three sources — two Democrats and one Republican. Ad buy totals have been rounded or closely approximated based on the size of the buy.
It’s also important to note that higher spending does not always translate into more advertising. Typically media buyers get cheaper rates if they reserve advertising time on television earlier.
A few additional notes about spending in this race:
Last week, Republicans spent $614,000, while Democrats spent about $545,000. In the current week, Feb. 11-17, Republicans spent about $880,000 to Democrats’ $560,000 on the airwaves.
For now, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is spending more than the NRCC by 2-to-1. But the NRCC is increasing its ad buy reservations weekly.
Sink has spent more than Jolly by about 6-to-1. It’s a reflection of the cash advantage she built while Jolly battled in the GOP primary. Democrats notably went to great lengths to clear the party’s field for Sink. While Jolly was still fighting off a primary rival, Democratic House leadership and the Democratic Florida delegation donated to her campaign and hosted a fundraiser for her. What’s more, Sink gets more bang for her buck. Federal regulations dictate that candidates get better rates than outside groups on television ads.
Republicans are making up ground, thanks to outside groups. For now, House Majority PAC is the lone Democratic super PAC playing in this race. Conversely, the U.S Chamber of Commerce, American Action Network and American Crossroads are supporting Jolly.
More GOP outside spending could come as well — a drastic change since immediately after the primary. AAN and American Crossroads are currently spending about $357,000 apiece, but they pledge to spend $500,000 in late January. In that same announcement, another conservative group, YG Network, pledged to invest $200,000. No YG Network reservations have surfaced in media buyer circles.
It should also be noted that much of this campaign is being waged off the air. EMILY’s List, which backs Sink, and the Florida GOP are making substantial direct-mail expenditures. The NRCC made a large digital buy in January.
The race is rated Tossup by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.