The one chart that proves the midterm elections are well underway

The midterm elections are well underway. And here’s proof: In January, 10  months before Election Day, candidates running for seats in the House and Senate and the outside groups hoping to influence those elections aired more than 9,500 television commercials.


Source: Harley Ellenberger, Campaign Media Analysis Group/Kantar Media Intelligence

Or 9,519, to be exact. That’s almost three and a half days of television, running in 54 media markets covering 23 different races, according to data compiled by the Campaign Media Analysis Group, a division of Kantar Media Intelligence.

The number of ads the two sides have run far outpaces Januaries in previous election cycles. In January 2012, candidates for Congress ran a total of 2,966 individual advertisements (They were mostly drowned out by the battle for the Republican presidential nomination). In 2010, a midterm year, congressional candidates ran 6,029 spots.

The battle for the Senate is getting the most attention, the data show. Senate candidates and the outside groups feuding over their seats ran 7,621 ads last month, about four times the number of ads that ran in House contests. Those ads ran in 48 different media markets and took up 66 hours of otherwise perfectly good television.

The advertising data only includes ads geared at this year’s general election. That is, ads aired in the special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional district aren’t counted.

There aren’t many strategists who advise candidates to run their own advertisements so far in advance of an election, so most of the ads are coming from outside groups. In just the last few days, one of those groups — the conservative Americans for Prosperity — has dropped millions of dollars into ad campaigns in Florida, Arkansas, Michigan, Iowa and West Virginia, with plans to run ads in several more states.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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