As three determined Democrats come down the stretch run in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, the candidate with friends in distant places will have a big edge in TV advertising.
Retired admiral and former Congressman Joe Sestak has led in every public poll so far, but Katie McGinty, the former state environmental secretary who’s been embraced by the Democratic establishment, is in position to make a strong run.
John Fetterman, the towering mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, continues his distinctive campaign, but he hasn’t managed to replicate the Bernie Sanders fundraising magic, at least not enough to compete with McGinty and Sestak.
There are contribution limits in federal elections, but they only apply to the candidate campaign committees. Outside groups can raise and spend as much as they like on independent expenditure efforts, and they’re making a big difference in the Senate race.
I’ve gotten a look at Pennsylvania ad buy totals from a source in the business, and here’s what they show:
Sestak, McGinty and the outside groups will spend more than $8 million on advertising in the primary, and McGinty and her allies will spend nearly twice as much as Sestak and his supporters.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which represents the party’s national leadership, is spending more than $1.5 million in support of McGinty, as is the feminist, pro-abortion rights group Emily’s List. The Service Employees International Union is putting up more than $200,000 for McGinty.
The super PAC supporting Sestak, called Accountable Leadership, has spent more than $700,000 in support of his candidacy. Its donors are mostly individuals, mostly from Pennsylvania. Looking over its financial report, I saw a dozen contributors who gave $20,000 or more.
In the last two weeks of the campaign, with McGinty trying to close the gap in the race, her side will outspend Sestak’s on ad time by a margin of more than three to one, roughly $3.5 million to $1 million.
Fetterman has been making and placing ads, but his buys aren’t on a scale to compete with the other two. He continues to make an impression, though. He’s been endorsed by the Harrisburg Patriot News.