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Image: Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, speaks during a campaign rally at the Saint Clair Fish & Game Club in Saint Clair, Pa., on July 6, 2022.
Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, speaks during a campaign rally in Saint Clair, Pa., on July 6, 2022. Lindsey Shuey / Republican-Herald via AP

Democratic gubernatorial nominees have big edge in ad spending across battleground

Democratic nominees have spent about $17 million in races where primaries have occurred. Republicans have spent about $1 million.


Democratic gubernatorial nominees have run up a massive ad-spending edge over their GOP opponents in races where primary contests have already occurred, new analysis from NBC News shows.

The Democratic nominee has spent more on ads (TV, digital and radio) than Republicans in four of six races rated competitive by the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter where voters have already chosen their nominees.

At the candidate level, the gap is about $17 million to $1 million, per AdImpact (counting spending starting the first full week after the primary). Outside groups have helped Republicans close that massive discrepancy, but even with those efforts included, Democrats are outspending Republicans about $30 million to $10 million.

The largest gap comes in Pennsylvania, where Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro has spent more than $8.5 million on ads since he won the nomination on May 17. His GOP opponent, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, has spent about $40,000 on ads, all on digital, AdImpact data shows.

Texas has another race with a huge discrepancy in favor of the Democrats (one that is making some Democrats optimistic about their ability to knock off Republican Gov. Greg Abbott) — former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke has spent about $4 million all on digital ads since the March primary, compared to Abbott's $227,000.

New Mexico is one state where significant outside spending has helped to narrow the gap for Republicans. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan has spent more than $700,000 on ads since the early June primary, compared to Republican Mark Ronchetti $240,000. But when outside spending is included, Democrats have spent a little over $1 million to the GOP's $900,000.

That ad spending edge gives Democrats additional avenues to define their candidates, and their opponents, across a big battleground this fall.

An ad spending edge is just a part of the story, however. For example, despite Shapiro's huge ad-spending advantage, public polling over the last six weeks has only found him with a small lead.

There's only one competitive race where Democrats aren't leading in ad spending — Oregon.And this is a race with a unique dynamic — neither major party nominee has spent much on advertising since the primary ended (although former House Republican Leader Christine Drazan has the ad-spending edge over former House Speaker Tina Kotek). Instead, its former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, who served in the legislature as a Democrat but is mounting an unaffiliated gubernatorial bid, who has spent about $2 million on TV and digital ads.