RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Money is pouring into North Carolina to try to influence the outcome of this year’s race for U.S. Senate, as the Tar Heel state once again is poised to play a key role in determining which party wins control of Congress.
The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, announced on Monday it’s already reserved $27.6 million worth of advertising time in North Carolina beginning Sept. 6.
That’s part of $141 million in reservations in battleground states this year, a new record for the group.
“An open-seat election is so critical for the Republicans and the Democrats. So, I think $27 million may be just be the start,” said Meredith College political analyst David McLennan. “We’re seeing lots of activity. And, I think that’ll continue through Election Day.”
Politico reported Senate Majority PAC, which is aligned with Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, previously announced it plan to spend at least $106 million in battleground states during the general election, but that figure did not include a pecific figure for North Carolina. The initial reservations were also a new record for Senate Majority PAC as well.
The airwaves are already being saturated with political advertising ahead of the May 17 primary.
While Democrat Cheri Beasley is no longer facing any major opposition within her party, Republicans are still locked in an intense battle.
Beasley reported raising $3.6 million for her campaign in the first quarter of the year, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd and former Gov. Pat McCrory both raised about $1.1 million during that time period, the FEC reports show. Budd is leading McCrory in recent polling.
While the campaigns are using some of that money on their own advertising, the outside group Club for Growth Action is putting even more toward the Republican primary
The group has committed to spending at least $14 million to help Ted Budd win and has gone after McCrory in a series of attack ads for months.
“This is bigger than anything I can remember in terms of a Senate primary race,” said McLennan. “Club for Growth, in particular, has such a strong interest in Ted Budd winning the nomination and keeping the others from winning it, they’re going to spend heavily in the primary cycle and one would assume in the general election.”
McLennan said there’s been a significant shift in recent years with outside groups now spending significantly more than the campaigns themselves do.
He said the campaigns’ finance reports give “a snapshot of how well the campaign is going, but that may not indicate at all what the campaign is going to be about.”
According to Open Secrets, spending in North Carolina’s 2020 Senate race was just over $300 million. Outside groups spent about three times as much as the campaigns reported spending that cycle.
With the Senate tied at 50-50, each battleground state could play a key role in determining which party ultimately wins control, meaning spending this year could set another new record in the state.
“Not just because of our Senate candidates, although that’s going to be very significant, but because both parties see this as a pathway to having control of the Senate,” McLennan said.
With dark money groups seeking to influence elections, McLennan said it makes it that much harder for voters to figure out whose money is trying to affect their vote.
“Many of these independent expenditure groups, it really is behind a very difficult veil to see through,” he said.