Evan Tracey, founder and president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, says a number of factors are combining that could drive political advertising to “well over $1 billion this year.”
A rise in issue advertising, the so-called “permanent presidential campaign” and early primary elections could combine to drive 2009 political advertising to “well over $1 billion this year,” according to Evan Tracey, founder and president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Commenting following an address he made to the Media Financial Management Association’s convention in Atlanta, Tracey warned it’s too early for solid predictions, given how much is still up in the air, and said that $1 billion is the high end of a wide range that could go as low as $400 million to $700 million.
Even that lower amount would be a record for an off political year, however, as Tracey pointed out in his address.
One reason is an increase in advocacy advertising, which “is headed for a record year this year,” he said.
The administration’s tough rules requiring public officials to wait at least two years before entering the ranks of lobbyists has restricted traditional lobbying avenues, he said. “This forces advocacy groups to go outside the Beltway” and do more advertising.
Also fueling advocacy advertising is the fact there are now as many liberal groups advertising to support the Democratic Party’s agenda as there are conservative ones opposing it, Tracey said. In addition, Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party has created a political problem for conservative Democrats in the Senate.
“The cover has gone away for conservative Democrats who used to be able to vote against liberal initiatives,” Tracey said, and that means liberal advocacy groups will be spending more in the states represented by those conservative Democrats in order to influence their votes.
The so-called permanent presidential campaign also contributes to issue advertising, Tracey said, launching a video of an ad the Democratic National Committee ran not long ago supporting the Obama administration’s effort to pass its budget bill.
“The DNC isn’t resting,” he said. “They are still in campaign move and willing to spend on advertising even in an off year.”
Corporations are also spending on issue advocacy, Tracey said, showing an ad Wal-Mart is running promoting universal healthcare. Other companies have run ads opposing a bill that would make it easier for employees to opt for unions.
“Corporations are willing to use their brands to advocate for policy initiatives,” Tracey said, noting that Wal-Mart’s issue campaign hasn’t diverted funds from its regular advertising budget.
Political spending in 2009 is also getting a jolt from the large number of state races underway, and candidates have begun spending earlier than usual.
Former Clinton adviser Terry McAuliffe, a formidable fundraiser, is running for governor in Virginia, he said, and Gov. Tom Corzine’s race in New Jersey is more competitive than anticipated.
In addition, Tracey added, “there are more than 600 mayoral races this year.”
The earlier primary election dates many states adopted in order to influence the 2008 presidential race are still mostly in place, and could drive some spending by primary candidates into fourth-quarter 2009, Tracey said.
As for 2010, political spending will “zoom past that of 2008,” Tracey said. “There’s a tidal wave of races coming up and many are races with a lot of consequence.
“The Republican Party “is like a wounded elephant. They are in survival mode right now.”
This means the party will be very motivated to fundraise, “and that bodes well for ad dollars,” Tracey said. “Republicans won’t just try to cut their losses. They’ve gone through two blood-letting elections. There isn’t a lot of low-hanging fruit for Democrats to target. There are 50 to 60 House races that will be in very competitive landscape, so more dollars will flow there.”
There are also “bonus Senate seats” open in 2010, in Illinois, New York, Delaware and Colorado, he said, and in California, “two billionaires are running for governor.”