WASHINGTON — Ohioans, get ready for the deluge.
A research and consulting firm that tracks political advertising predicts that Ohio will face more than $240 million in ads this election cycle, with the largest portion of that going into the hotly contested race for governor.
Borrell Associates of Williamsburg, Virginia, says the race between Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine will cost $28.7 million before it’s over. Only Florida, Maryland and California are expected to have costlier gubernatorial races, according to the analysis, released Wednesday.
The company's findings, published in a report titled "Bracing for Political Impact," are consistent with predictions made by Bob Clegg, president of Midwest Communications, a Powell firm that places ads for Republicans. Clegg said that judging by current buys, the governor’s race will shower $7 million worth of ads in the Columbus media market and closer to $10 million in Cleveland.
"I’m guessing there will be around $25 million in the state in just the governor’s race alone," he said.
It’s not an exact science. Clegg said DeWine’s campaign is reserving commercials on a week-to-week basis, beginning Aug. 22, with $102,000 reserved for this week. The Republican Governors Association will renew its Columbus buy Sept. 26 and run it through Nov. 5. The RGA has reserved $2.5 million worth of ad time during that period.
A third organization, the RGA-affiliated Right Direction PAC, is airing ads this week and the next two, he said. The group also is reserving air time on a week-to-week basis. In all, they’ve reserved roughly $559,000 during that period, he said.
Cordray, meanwhile, has reserved $759,000 in air time in the Columbus area for Tuesday through Nov. 5, Clegg said. And a PAC affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association — A Stronger Ohio — has reserved nearly $2 million in Columbus through Nov. 5, he said. The sum, he said, is competitive, but in the end, it appears that DeWine will outspend Cordray in air time before Election Day.
Compared with that, the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Jim Renacci will be sleepy, he predicted. He said that’s because so many other Senate races across the country are considered more competitive.
"It’s always a chess game," Clegg said. "And Ohio’s not in that chess game right now."
He predicted that, ultimately, there will be less money spent in that race than there was the last time Brown, a Democrat, ran.
Borrell Associates, meanwhile, anticipates that about $11 million will be spent on the Senate race. It’ll be a top-10 race, according to its report, but Ohio, at eighth place, will see far less money than Senate races in Florida, California, New Jersey and Missouri, for example.
Clegg said he also expects more money to be poured into other statewide and legislative races than during previous midterm elections, in large part because Democrats are raising more money this year than for past elections.
"You’re going to have Democrats and Republicans on TV for attorney general, auditor, treasurer and secretary of state where traditionally it’s been pretty much the Republican alone, and even they wouldn’t spend as much as they could," he said.
The veteran media buyer said he expects air time "will be a lot tighter than it was in 2014 and in some respects even tighter than it was in 2016," when then-presidential nominee Donald Trump opted for free media attention more than advertising.
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Borrell predicted that Ohio’s state legislative campaign spending will hit $78.77 million.
"We’re seeing some state legislative races that are running over a million dollars," said Kip Cassino, executive vice president of Borrell and author of the report. "That’s unheard of."
He said much of the increase can be attributed to digital advertising, with this election a test of how much political advertising people online are willing to tolerate.
In all, U.S. House and Senate races in Ohio are expected to draw $29.6 million in spending, according to Borrell, races for state offices are expected to draw $118.38 million and local races are expected to draw $31.75 million. Other political spending — including PAC and special-interest spending — is expected to top $60.65 million in Ohio.
Ohio might mirror national trends; Borrell predicted that political advertising for 2018 will total $8.9 billion this cycle, with the bulk of it — $3.5 billion, or 39 percent — going to broadcast TV. That $8.9 billion total is 8 percent more than what was spent during the 2014 midterms.
An additional $1.8 billion will go to digital media, and cable will air $1.1 billion worth of advertising, according to the report.
The study found that less than one-third of that money has been spent — meaning if you’re not yet sick of political advertising, you likely will be.