Republicans outspend Democrats in opening stretch of Georgia Senate runoffs

More than $268M has already been spent on the Jan. 5 contests
(FROM LEFT TO RIGHT) David Perdue, Jon Ossoff, Kelly Loeffler, and Raphael Warnock  Credit: Associated Press / AJC

(FROM LEFT TO RIGHT) David Perdue, Jon Ossoff, Kelly Loeffler, and Raphael Warnock Credit: Associated Press / AJC

Georgia’s all-important runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate have already attracted more than $268 million in ad spending, with an early advantage going to Republican U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

The two GOP incumbents and their outside supporters have already financed about $163 million worth of ads for the nine-week campaign, according to an analysis by media guru Rick Dent. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, along with their allies, have combined for about $105 million.

Those sums don’t include all the other spending pouring into Georgia ahead of the Jan. 5 contests, which will shape how aggressively President-elect Joe Biden can pursue his legislative agenda.

The campaigns and their backers are also spending prodigiously on get-out-the-vote efforts, direct mail, a surge of new staffers and other costs tied to the twin contests. And more is surely on its way as Georgia draws more attention from political stars and celebrities.

11/20/2020 -  Gainesville, Georgia  U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (left) and Senator David Perdue (right) embrace one another while giving remarks to a crowd gathered at a Defend the Majority Republican Rally in Gainesville, Ga., Friday, November 20, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

Republicans are mounting a 50-state fundraising effort, and groups tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have already plunged about $78 million into the contests – about one-third of the total spend so far. Democrats are pouring in cash, too, fueled in part by Stacey Abrams’ network.

(We should note that the Ad Age Campaign Ad Scorecard has the overall tally slightly higher, at $272 million.)

The avalanche of money is staggering, particularly when compared with past Georgia elections.

The entire U.S. Senate campaign in 2014 that resulted in Perdue’s first victory cost around $75 million. And Georgia’s epic gubernatorial contest between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp hovered north of $100 million.

The spending on those two races was eclipsed over a single weekend of this all-out campaign. On Friday, about $90 million worth of ads were booked, according to Dent’s analysis. And another $32 million in ad spending came into Georgia on Monday.

Once, analysts who predicted these runoffs could top $500 million in spending sounded grandiose. At this rate, that benchmark will be passed well before Christmas.

Staggering sums

The first phase of the twin Senate races set the tone, with spending soaring well beyond $160 million by early October. The gusher has only intensified since the Nov. 3 elections, when both races were forced into overtime after no candidates secured a majority of the vote.

Though the two Republicans and two Democrats are running as a packaged deal – Ossoff and Warnock would both need to win to flip control of the GOP-held Senate – the analysis by Dent shows wrinkles in their ad strategies.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff (R) and Raphael Warnock (L) of Georgia hold a rally on November 15, 2020 in Marietta, Georgia. Ossoff and Warnock face incumbent U.S. Sens. David Purdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) respectively in a January 5 runoff election. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

Loeffler pumped at least $23 million of her own cash into the Nov. 3 campaign, but she’s had little trouble fundraising this phase.

So far, some $91 million has been spent on ads promoting her bid to defeat Warnock, who has roughly $54 million worth of air cover from his campaign and its boosters.

The campaigns of both Warnock and Loeffler have plowed in more than $40 million for airtime, but Loeffler has the edge thanks to an important ally: American Crossroads, a PAC aligned with McConnell, has put another $42 million behind the GOP incumbent.

Perdue and his allies have spent about $72 million, including about $30 million from the campaign and roughly $36 million from the McConnell-tied Senate Leadership Fund. Ossoff and his backers have spent roughly $51 million, with roughly $44 million coming from the Democrat’s campaign.

The ads are taking a largely nasty tone. Just about all of the Republican spots are negative, according to Dent’s analysis, with a steady diet of warnings about “socialism” and a “radical” agenda if the incumbents are unseated.

The approach from Democrats is different. While pro-Democratic groups are exclusively airing attacks, Ossoff’s ads are a mix of messaging – both positive and negative – and Warnock is relying more on contrast ads that both highlight his campaign and knock Loeffler.