The ‘Core Four’ Senate Races, and Beyond

A CBS News poll published on Wednesday, which showed Kelly up just three percentage points over Masters in Arizona among likely voters, seemed to underscore Republicans’ argument about where the midterms might be headed: When the network pushed undecided voters to make a choice, the result was a closer race than other polls. The CBS survey also found that while Kelly is popular, 61 percent of likely voters disapproved of the job Biden is doing as president — a pretty gnarly number for Democrats to overcome.

Across all of the big races, Democratic candidates enjoy a significant edge in campaign cash.

According to a New York Times analysis of campaign finance reports, Republican candidates in the seven big battleground Senate races had raised less than a third of what their opponents had brought in by the end of June, the most recent federal deadline for campaigns to report their fund-raising totals.

It’s fallen to McConnell and groups such as the Senate Leadership Fund, run by a top former deputy, to close the gap. In New Hampshire, for instance, the super PAC announced $23 million in TV ads aimed at defeating Hassan. And in Pennsylvania, the leadership fund has already spent nearly $34 million, primarily on TV ads.

Money is only one part of the picture. Political operatives closely track “gross ratings points,” a measure of the reach of an advertising campaign. Democrats say they have been able to match or exceed Republicans on the airwaves in most weeks since the general election began, thanks in large part to their candidates’ cash advantages. A dollar spent by a candidate on TV ads typically goes further than a dollar spent by a super PAC because stations are required by law to sell them time at discounted rates.

And while TV isn’t everything — digital ads and old-fashioned retail campaigns still matter — it’s one factor that campaigns and outside groups monitor obsessively, and it’s where they typically devote a bulk of their money. For that reason, it’s probably the best single measure we have of the relative balance of power between the two parties.

AdImpact, which tracks ad spending, reckons that 2022 is on pace to smash previous records. The firm estimates that campaigns will spend $9.7 billion on political ads this year, which it calls “a historic sum.”

Here’s the thing: Republicans need to pick up only one seat to regain control of the Senate.

But in this year’s other competitive Senate races — North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — Democrats have opportunities to cancel out any gains Republicans make elsewhere.

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