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Ad costs for House races could spike in some battleground states

Presidential, Senate contenders will be competing for airtime

Rep. John James, R-Mich., won by less than 1 percentage point last year, but a Democrat trying to oust him next year will be competing for airtime with presidential and Senate candidates in the battleground state.
Rep. John James, R-Mich., won by less than 1 percentage point last year, but a Democrat trying to oust him next year will be competing for airtime with presidential and Senate candidates in the battleground state. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — The 2024 fights for the House, Senate and White House are still taking shape, but it’s not hard to see where the campaign ad rates are going to be costly.

Advertising will always be expensive in the New York City and Los Angeles areas, due to the sheer size of the media markets. But in other, smaller markets and states, higher demand driven by multiple competitive races on the ballot will dramatically increase the cost.  

Some states, such as Georgia, North Carolina and Wisconsin, will likely be presidential battlegrounds, and while Wisconsin will have a competitive Senate race, it’s unclear how many competitive House races each state will have.

Republicans effectively gerrymandered the Peach State, and it looks as if the 2nd District won’t be competitive after Democratic Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr.’s 10-point reelection victory in 2022. North Carolina could have competitive House races, but there’s considerable uncertainty with another round of redistricting ahead of 2024. Defeating GOP Reps. Bryan Steil and Derrick Van Orden in Wisconsin’s 1st and 3rd districts, respectively, looks like a reach for Democrats at this early stage of the cycle. 

A handful of other states will host costly battles for both parties. 

Arizona

After Joe Biden won Arizona by less than half a percentage point, the Grand Canyon State will be a presidential battleground once again next year. The fight for independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s seat will be competitive whether she seeks reelection or not. And Democrats will take fresh runs at GOP Reps. David Schweikert in the 1st District and Juan Ciscomani in the 6th District. Biden would have carried both districts in 2020, and the Democratic presidential nominee will likely need to win them again in 2024 if House Democrats want to flip both seats, considering the high correlation between presidential and House outcomes. 

Michigan

Biden won Michigan by nearly 3 points in 2020, and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won reelection by nearly 11 points in 2022, but the state will be a presidential battleground next year. The Wolverine State will also be home to a competitive U.S. Senate race left open by Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who is not running for reelection. That will raise the ad rates for interested parties investing in the 7th District, which will be open with Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin running for Senate, and the 10th District, where Republican Rep. John James won in 2022 by an unexpectedly narrow margin.

Nevada

Biden won Nevada by 2 points in 2020, but the Silver State will be a battleground once again. For the second consecutive cycle, Nevada will host a competitive Senate race. Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto won reelection by less than 1 point in 2022, and her colleague, Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen, will be a target this cycle. Republicans are also going to take a fresh run at Democratic Reps. Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford in the 1st, 3rd and 4th districts, respectively. Biden won the trio of seats in 2020, but his biggest tally was 53.2 percent in Titus’ district.

New Hampshire

The Granite State will get its typical time in the spotlight with the presidential primary but could also see a number of competitive general election races. Biden won New Hampshire by 7 points in 2020, but it’s not firmly in the Democratic column. Gov. Chris Sununu’s 2022 reelection showed Republicans can still win statewide, and if he decides to run for president, that would create an open race to replace him. Republicans would love to take on Rep. Chris Pappas in the 1st District, but they’ll need a strong candidate. 

Pennsylvania

A 1-point Biden victory in 2020 is a good sign that the Keystone State will be a presidential battleground once again. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey could have a tough race based on the competitiveness of the state, but even if it’s not a top-tier contest, it could feature a wealthy GOP nominee who will blanket the state with TV ads. There’s likely to be a handful of competitive House races as well. Republicans will target the 7th (Susan Wild), 8th (Matt Cartwright) and 17th (Chris Deluzio) districts, while Democrats are seeking strong challengers in the 1st (Brian Fitzpatrick) and 10th (Scott Perry) districts. 

Considering Democrats need a net gain of only five seats to regain the House majority, these dozen or so races are likely to impact who controls the House in 2025. Each party could be forced into expensive battles in these races due to a lack of opportunities elsewhere.

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.

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