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Almost $80 million is spent on TV ads for Georgia's 4-week Senate runoff

This photo composite shows Democratic Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, left, and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker. The two are competing in a U.S. Senate runoff, which concludes Tuesday.
This combination of photos shows, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 3, 2021, left, and Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaking in Perry, Ga., Sept. 25, 2021. Early in-person voting for the last U.S. Senate seat is underway statewide in Georgia's runoff, with Warnock and Democrats looking to get a head start over challenger Walker as Republicans take a more muted approach toward advanced balloting in the final contest of the 2022 midterms. (AP Photo)

There has been a rush of spending on TV ads for the pivotal Georgia U.S. Senate runoff, which is just a shortened four-week campaign.

In that period, some $79 million has been poured in to buy airtime. And spending by groups supporting Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock has more than doubled contributions from groups backing Republican challenger Herschel Walker, according to data from the ad-tracking firm AdImpact and analyzed by NPR.

The contest, which will be decided Tuesday, went to a runoff because no candidate got above the 50% threshold in last month's general election to avoid one. Warnock finished ahead of Walker by nearly a percentage point and missed winning outright by fewer than 22,000 votes. A Libertarian candidate got 2% of the vote.

Winning this Senate seat has been seen as crucial by both major parties and interests that align with them. In all, $335 million has been spent on TV ads in the race, according to AdImpact.

Here's how the TV spending for this runoff breaks down:

  • Pro Warnock: $54 million ($25m campaign, $29m outside groups)
  • Pro Walker: $25 million ($10m campaign, $15m outside groups)
  • And here are the biggest-spending outside groups for the runoff:

    • Georgia Honor (D): $22m
    • Senate Leadership Fund (R): $12m (plus $500,000 from the affiliated One Nation)
    • American Bridge (D): $4m
    • NRA (R): $1m (this is double what it spent in the general election)
    • VoteVets (D): $900,000
    • And here's the spending from the parties' Senate committees:

      • NRSC: $556,000
      • DSCC: $46,000
      • If Democrats hang on to the seat, they would expand their majority to 51-49 in the Senate. That would give them a bit of a cushion to pass legislation and confirm Biden administration and judicial nominees.

        What's more, the Senate landscape in 2024 looks bleak for Democrats. If they hope to retain control of the Senate beyond these next two years, winning this seat now could be crucial.

        One other note: There has been $0 in TV spending from former President Donald Trump's MAGA Inc. for the runoff, according to AdImpact. It spent $3.6 million in Georgia in the final weeks leading up to the general election.

        By comparison, the Sen. Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund and One Nation spent a combined $82 million between the general election and the runoff.

        Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.