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Media Tracking Firm: Democrats Outspending Republicans In Senate TV War

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Republican Gabriel Gomez and Democrat Ed Markey shook hands before their first debate in the race for U.S. Senate. (Shoshana Salzberg for WBUR)
Republican Gabriel Gomez and Democrat Ed Markey shook hands before their first debate in the race for U.S. Senate. (Shoshana Salzberg for WBUR)

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey and his Democratic allies are outspending Republican Gabriel Gomez and his backers on television advertising by a margin of more than 3-2, according to Washington-based media tracking firm.

The Democrats' edge on television is emblematic of a large disparity in overall campaign spending.

As of June 5, Markey had spent some $8.7 million to Gomez's $2.3 million on everything from salaries to office supplies and TV spots, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Democrat had about $2.3 million in cash on hand with the race entering the home stretch, compared to about $1 million for his Republican opponent.

Outside groups supporting Markey — from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to the League of Conservation Voters — have spent about $3.7 million to date on advertising and get out the vote efforts.

Independent Gomez supporters, meanwhile, have dropped about $850,000 on the race — almost all of it coming from Super PAC Americans for Progressive Action, which is paying for ads criticizing Markey on Medicare and health care reform.

Markey is the favorite in the race. He led Gomez 54-41 in a Boston Globe poll published Sunday.

But analysts say the spending imbalance shows that Democrats, still smarting from Republican Scott Brown's upset of Martha Coakley in the special U.S. Senate election in 2010, are not taking the race for granted.

"They're all really bringing resources to bear in a major way, spending five, six or even seven figures, depending on which organization you're talking about, to support Markey," said David Levinthal of the Center for Public Integrity, which reports on money and politics. "They're not taking any chances here."

Campaign Media Analysis Group, a division of Kantar Media, did not disclose precise advertising figures for the Markey-Gomez contest; the firm, as a matter of policy, does not provide data free of charge.

But Elizabeth Wilner, a vice president at the company, said the Democrats' advantage over the Republicans runs between 3-2 and 3.5-2.

Political scientists say when the two sides in a campaign spend evenly on television ads, they tend to cancel each other out with voters — whatever the content of their spots.

But a spending imbalance can have an impact, particularly when the candidates targeted in the ads are largely unknown.

Will Ritter, a spokesman for the Gomez campaign, did not dispute the Campaign Media Analysis Group's numbers. But he brushed aside the Democrats' spending edge.

"Congressman Ed Markey and his DC friends can waste all the money they want on negative ads," he said, in a statement. "Gabriel Gomez’s message of reforming Washington, creating jobs and putting people before politics is resonating with the voters of Massachusetts."

Andrew Zucker, a spokesman for Markey, said "the more voters learn about the clear differences between Ed Markey and Gabriel Gomez on issues like Gomez's opposition to banning assault weapons and limiting high-capacity magazines and his willingness to support pro-life justices for the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade the clearer it is that Gomez is not on the side of middle-class families in Massachusetts and only Ed Markey can be trusted to fight for the Commonwealth in the Senate."

Levinthal of the Center for Public Integrity said spending in the special election — operating on a compressed schedule and at an unusual time of year — is already above average for a U.S. Senate race.

The candidates in the last Massachusetts U.S. Senate race, Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren, signed a "People's Pledge" that kept outside groups off the airwaves.

Gomez declined to sign the pledge this time around.

The barrage of independently funded negative TV ads in the closing days of the current campaign, Levinthal said, puts the Bay State in line with the "new normal" for Senate races nationwide.

This program aired on June 17, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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