ATLANTA — You’ve seen political ads for the U.S Senate races for months. But get ready to see more of them because a lot of money is being pumped into the two runoffs in Georgia.
Experts predict the runoffs in Georgia could raise up to $200 million in just eight weeks. For comparison, candidates in a South Carolina Senate race raised more than $160 million over an entire year.
Channel 2′s Matt Johnson spoke with Georgia state professor Jeffrey Lazarus on the potentially historically expensive election.
“I would say between the two races, you’ll probably get to see two to $300 million with an outside shot of going higher,” he said.
Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will face off against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
“Control of the Senate is at stake,” Lazarus said.
This year’s South Carolina Senate race is the most expensive ever at $164 million spent over a whole year. The Center for Responsive Politics estimated 87% of the money came from outside of the state.
Most of the campaign money is spent on advertising.
“The ads might be clever and might be entertaining. But if they don’t move people to turn out, it won’t make any difference,” said Scott Ainsworth, a political-science professor at the University of Georgia.
But money doesn’t buy elections. South Carolina candidate Jamie Harrison set fundraising records this year and lost. In 2018, Beto O’Rouke set spending records while running for senator in Texas and lost.
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Johnson spoke to an independent voter in Atlanta who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 and President-Elect Joe Biden in 2020. He said neither party should feel like they have the advantage.
“I think people are going to look at things individually. It’s too important,” he said. “If we can just hear some policy out of everybody, that’s what I’m going to be looking for. But as of right now, I don’t think it’s a gimme.”
Ossoff and Perdue already have combined to spend nearly $45 million as of October. Loeffler and Warnock have combined to spend nearly $40 million this year.
Johnson looked through the latest FEC filings. Loeffler had the most cash on hand heading into the primaries. Ossoff had the least.
Democrats are hoping to capitalize on Biden’s lead over Trump in Georgia.
“Making sure that these same voters come out to vote in the Senate runoff will be an uphill battle. But I do believe that it’s something that we can do that we can pull up," said Arteen Afshar of the Gwinnett County Young Democrats.
But Republicans are confident in their history of higher turnout in runoff elections.
“Both the Democratic candidates underperformed, Joe Biden, in the races on Tuesday, I don’t see them polling better than they did on Tuesday,” said Gabe Hartwig with the Atlanta Young Republicans.
Senate control and health care will be the defining issues of the races. Each candidate will have every resource to try and snag this swing state once again.
“I really think all four candidates are going to have more money than they know what to do with” Lazarus said.