The $12.7 Million Battle for the District That Doesn’t Really Exist

Nearly $13 million has been spent on the TV and radio airwaves for the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional district. What makes this expenditure even more remarkable is that the 18th district as we know it today will cease to exist this year. Candidates in this November’s general election will run under the entirely new district lines, thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s redistricting ruling. In total, voters in the 18th district and surrounding areas have been subjected to an estimated total of 10,003 broadcast spots (3.6 days if played end to end), but many voters will only be represented by the winner for 10 months.

Teaming up with Medium Buying, we’re visualizing the battle for the 18th using Insights On Air, Echelon’s media analytics and visualization platform. Team Rick Saccone holds a 64–36% advantage in spending, but this fades to close to a 50–50 draw with Democrat Conor Lamb and his supporters when counting what this spending buys in terms of actual advertising volume. That’s because candidates can buy advertising at much more favorable rates than outside groups, and the Lamb campaign holds a 3:1 spending advantage over the Saccone campaign. As with other special elections this year, Republicans have relied more on outside groups to fuel special election advertising.

Heading into Election Day, Team Lamb has seized the share of voice advantage that Team Saccone has held throughout most of the campaign, airing an estimated 60% of spots on broadcast over the final weekend.

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