According to new data released by AdImpact on Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom’s campaign against the upcoming Governor recall election far outspent those in favor of the recall and Republican candidates vying for the position, with the pro-Newsom camp spending $5.9 million in July compared to only $27,500 for those pro-recall.
While Republican candidates have spent millions this year on advertisements, with Kantar-CMAG estimating in June that more than $10 million had already been spent by both sides on ads on the election during the first half of 2021, most of that spending was done earlier this year. Large ad campaigns, such as those by the Fund for a Better California, a group in favor of former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer unrolling a $1.2 million ad campaign in June, and 2018 Gubernatorial candidate John Cox’s May “Meet the Beast” ad campaign, largely went silent in July as candidates focused more on grassroots efforts, in-person events, and online presences that shied away from the more traditional radio/tv/internet advertisements.
Newsom meanwhile went on an advertising binge, bringing in Democratic hard hitters such as Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to appear in ads and having ads pop up everywhere from network TV stations to ads playing before YouTube videos.
“We’re seeing ads against the recall come up more and more,” noted “Anne,” a Southern California advertising executive to the Globe. “They seem to think election day is next week every week the way they have been buying ad space.”
And while current future ad buys from August 3rd until September 14th are not as bad as the 200-1 voting dollar disparity as seen in July, Newsom and Democratic groups against the recall still have a gigantic lead: $13.3 million against $86,000.
However, despite the huge disparity, the recall remains extremely close. Polls are showing that the gap between voters against the recall and those for the recall has been quickly closing in the last several weeks, with the most recent poll showing that, among likely voters, there is now only a 3 point difference.
More ad campaigns to come in August, September
Republican candidates have also noticed, with many expected to drastically increase advertising budgets on the homestretch to the election. Former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, for example, is to go on a statewide bus campaign as soon as she returns from Australia this month, necessitating a jump in advertising along with it. Cox and Faulconer, currently tied for second place in recall candidate polling, will likely also increase ad blitzes along with other front runners such as radio host Larry Elder and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) due to Newsom’s falling support and the recall looking more and more likely to happen.
“You can kind of tell where candidates thought it was looking a little shaky,” explained former lobbyist Harry Schultz to the Globe on Monday. “Newsom was really turning things around when summer first began, and his support shot up. The state opened up, people didn’t have to wear masks anymore, and it looked like he was managing things.”
“But then came the delta variant, a worsening drought that was harming more and more people, worsening wildfires, more scandals, and so much more. In July, things turned against him again. Democrats have been failing to get people in their party to come out to vote too, which, honestly, is a huge factor. It’s not a traditional election year, no Senators are on the line, Biden isn’t up again, and even local races are later this year in November. Many assume he will win too. So Democrats aren’t flocking for him, even with all that spending.”
“But the GOP and those against the recall? They are highly motivated and have been very good at getting the vote out. This is why it is so close. Should the recall succeed, this will go into textbooks on how to have an effective grassroots effort against the odds. No one is really talking about how how unlikely this has all been, but it really has been amazing from a purely political and election perspective.”
Spending in August and the first half of September can also rise to heights not seen in two decades. During the 2003 recall election, over $50 million was spent by all the candidates. In 2021, it is already around $30 million. And with a weakened Newsom and the race still being pretty wide open among the current recall candidates, big money and “October in election year-style ad inundation” is likely to happen soon.
“Those for the recall and recall candidates have been relatively quiet, and they may stay that way to not draw any attention to the race to have more Democratic voters join in,” added Schultz. “But in all likelihood, with the recall now looking more likely, candidates are going to be throwing money into ads.”
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