Spending on political ads at record pace in NC

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Jon Camp examines the political ad spending as Election Day approaches.

Just two months before the election, spending by top candidates is already on pace with previous record-setting years.

Some quick, back-of-the-napkin numbers:

  1. In the Raleigh TV market, stations booked almost $12 million in the three months from July to September. Already, more than twice that is booked for the month of October and first week of November.

  2. If you turn on the TV right now, your odds of landing on a political commercial are about 1 in 3. When you turn on the TV in the week before the elections, your chances of watching a political ad jump to 4 in 5.

Top candidates are spending money in all the major markets but there are substantial differences in how much they're spending.

In the Raleigh market, Donald Trump's campaign has booked about $400,000 in TV ad time. Hillary Clinton's campaign has booked nearly $1.5 million through September and another $1 million in October and the first week of November.

"The cash is flowing right now to the TV stations in all the major races from the presidential race, the US Senate race, and the governor's race," said Democratic consultant Brad Crone, president of Campaign Connections.

In the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Richard Burr and his Democratic rival Deborah Ross, there's a huge cash-on-hand spread but, so far, it hasn't been a major factor. That has Crone and other political observers scratching their heads.

"You would expect Burr, an incumbent who has a cash advantage over Deborah Ross, to actually be spending more money on television and he hasn't," Crone said.

He pointed out Burr has a $4 million cash advantage, "so you would expect Burr to be engaged and in the process of trying to define Deborah Ross. But Ross at this point is more aggressive on television. I don't have an explanation for it," he confessed.

Crone noted that instead of TV ads, Burr is spending money on digital media in all the major markets across the state. He also got a huge financial shot in the arm from the major Republican financiers, the Koch brothers, in the form of an $8.1 million gift.

"Burr is going to outspend Deborah Ross in the independent expenditure component probably on the basis of 10 to 1," Crone predicted.

In the governor's race, the two campaigns have spent roughly the same amount of money -- about $4 million each.

"I think the gubernatorial ads have been very effective on both sides," Crone said. "The ad of (Democratic contender Roy) Cooper going home to Rocky Mount was extremely effective. Especially in eastern and western North Carolina because it allowed older, white Democrats to connect to his values and his roots. I thought that was very effective."

Crone also praised the recent round of ads released by Gov. Pat McCrory but questioned his featuring of HB2 (the so-called "bathroom bill"). "I think the Governor has such a strong record on employment and on handling the budget, I wouldn't touch HB2 with a 10-foot pole."

On the national stage, Crone says Clinton's commercials "are just peeling the bark off the trees of Trump."

But, he says, "the question in that race is not necessarily television money in advertising, it's going to be the ground game. And Hillary Rodham Clinton has invested a tremendous amount of money in the game. They've got 30 offices here in the state, more than 300 full-time employees, and voter outreach on voter contacts trying to get them registered and trying to get them ready for early voting.

"Trump virtually has no ground game in the state of North Carolina. He's got basically an office over at GOP headquarters and three or four staff. They're relying heavily on the GOP field station from the state level down to the county and precinct level to be their field team and we'll see whether or not that's effective."

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politicspoliticsroy cooperpat mccroryhillary clintondonald trumprichard burrpresidential racegubernatorial racesenateNorth Carolina
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