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Pols pony up for November derby

Campaigns spending more on local TV spots

With Democrats charging hard in the run-up to the November elections, both they and Republicans will be spending big on media campaigns.

Estimates put the 2006 market for political advertising at around $1 billion.

Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political ads, reports that spending on local TV spots for candidates is up more than three times the amount tallied in the 2002 midterm elections at the same point.

Television, primarily broadcast but increasingly cable as well, takes in most campaign media money. But more and more candidates are spending for Web sites and Internet banner ads.

“You definitely see the Internet playing a bigger role than ever before,” says Lance Copsey of the Republican political-media consulting firm Marsh Copsey & Associates. “In a statewide race, you’ll see maybe 5%-10% of the budget for Internet, less in congressional district races.”

Political handicappers identify about 25 races that will be white-hot.

Pennsylvania may prove to be the most lucrative market — worth about $30 million, says media buyer Jon Hutchins — as three House seats, one Senate seat and the governorship are all up for grabs.

Sen. Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvania Republican struggling against Dem challenger Bob Casey Jr., has boughtheavily on cable TV, and Casey’s once-commanding lead in the polls has since narrowed.

With a Senate seat and two key House seats that could go either way, Ohio will be close behind in terms of ad dollars spent, Hutchins says.

Curiously, the Joe Lierberman vs. Ned Lamont contest in Connecticut, while expected to be close, probably won’t generate much revenue for local media. (“The Connecticut market isn’t big or expensive,” says Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report.) Ditto the race in Texas to fill the House seat vacated by Tom DeLay, Cook says.

Every House candidate will likely be spending $2 million-$3 million on ads, says Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. “And (state) Senate races will tally in “the double-digit millions.”

“Every year you hear that the cost of campaigning goes up,” said Dave Beattie, senior partner of Democratic media consulting firm Hamilton Beattie & Staff. “That’s because every year the cost of advertising goes up.”

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