It’s only just begun.
Pennsylvania is three months away from its primary election and the Keystone State is already on track to conduct the most expensive primary in its history.
As of the middle of the month, candidates and political action committees have already spent or set aside more than $32.5 million in TV and radio time, according to Medium Buying, an Ohio-based ad tracking and buying firm.
The only other race in the nation that comes close – Ohio – at $26 million.
Terry Madonna, senior fellow in residence for political affairs at Millersville University told The Caucus, “it could reach $80 million.”
While candidates are playing nice, super PACs are not, spending millions to go after the two biggest spenders in the race – David McCormick and Mehmet Oz.
Honor Pennsylvania, a super PAC supporting McCormick, has purchased more than $12 million in air time. Most, if not all, has gone to attacking Oz, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending at OpenSecrets.org.
American Leadership Action, the super PAC supporting Oz, has responded with $1.5 million of attacks on McCormick’s past comments re: China.
If the $80 million figure is even close to accurate, that means this Pennsylvania primary could spend nearly half of the $170 million spent during the 2016 Senate campaign, won by Pat Toomey.
“It’s very rare you’re going to be engaged in a street brawl (during the primary), which is what this is,” said Mike Mikus, a long-time democratic operative said to The Caucus.
Negative ads – despite insistence from viewers to the contrary – hurt the target of the ad more than the attacker said Mikus. Although the candidate on the attack does end up paying some price.
It’s been said that a bare-knuckle fight during the primary always hurts the eventual winner. But Washington & Jefferson professor Joseph DiSarro disagrees.
“I am of the belief the conventional wisdom is not always right,” DiSarro told The Caucus. “Battle tested. Battle tough.”