When we last looked in at Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona they were the targets of an unprecedented TV ad campaign aimed to sway their vote vis-à-vis President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation. Since we checked in on them in mid-October, the more expansive - yet slightly pared down - infrastructure package has passed the House and now lies with the Senate.
To the extent ad spending presages political developments, we can safely assume this version of BBB will have a difficult passage in the Senate when the vote comes in a few weeks. Our initial analysis indicated that progressives were not confident about convincing Manchin to support their programs. He is a conservative Democrat in a very red state. There is virtually no electoral upside to his siding with the progressive wing of his party.
From the beginning of 2021 to the midpoint of October, PACs supportive of Manchin were outspending their intraparty rivals by 4.5 to 1. In the period since the middle of October, that dynamic holds though it has dropped to 3 to 1. Digging a little further into the West Virginia numbers Kantar can report that there is a total of 11 PACs up on the air in West Virginia with a total of 17 creatives. We have monitored progressive groups running $81,000 worth of advertising with 676 airings hostile to Senator Manchin. The moderate faction of Manchin’s party spent $241,000 worth of advertising on 3,202 airings.
As was the case when we last broke down the numbers, progressive PACs felt they had a better chance of convincing Kyrsten Sinema than Joe Manchin. Given her background, political pedigree and Arizona trending blue in recent cycles, they undoubtedly believed she was more amenable to their policy preferences.
In Arizona the ad spend was nearly dead even. Those totals have seen a sea change in the past seven weeks. By a factor of 2.5 to 1, moderate Democratic groups have outspent their progressive rivals. In all, Kantar has monitored 13 PACs with a total of 22 creatives airing on broadcast TV in Arizona as well as in Washington, DC. Ads critical of her appeared 1,767 times at a cost of $416,000, while ads supportive of her appeared 2,723 times at a cost of $1 million.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has set a Christmas Day deadline for a vote on Build Back Better, but Senator Manchin is balking. Given the Democratic party’s recent surprise loss in the Virginia gubernatorial election and their close call in New Jersey, the energy appears to be trending towards their caucus’ moderate side. While the most likely result is that the bill will fail to pass or a scaled-back bill will succeed in passing, political outcomes and advertising trends don’t necessarily correlate.