- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia voters who are tired of political advertising this year should count small blessings: It could always be worse.

A new national report shows that state-level campaigns spent at least $5.3 million on about 7,500 television spots through Sept. 8, compared to $11.76 million on more than 37,000 spots at the same point four years ago.

All but $100,000 of this year’s Georgia television spending has been in the governor’s race, as Republican incumbent Nathan Deal tries to withstand a challenge from Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter.

The estimates, which include most but not all television advertising, come from an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity.

Certainly, the total will grow as the Nov. 4 election approaches, and it doesn’t include a deluge of spending on Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat, a federal campaign that wasn’t included in the analysis.

But the diminished total underscores a relatively sleepy state campaign thus far that’s only recently seen an uptick as Deal and Carter head into the most intense period of their matchup.

The national estimated total is $282.7 million on ads that have run almost 550,000 times. That amounts to almost 195 days of air time if run continuously.

In Georgia, CPI found that Carter and Deal have each spent about $2.2 million from their own campaigns.

According to CPI estimates, $1.8 million of Deal’s total includes ads touting the governor, while he spent $383,100 on negative spots aimed at his Democratic opponent. Deal also benefited from a $787,000 ad blitz by the Republican Governors Association, all of it on spots attacking Carter.

Carter’s distribution was slightly more in favor of positive ads, with $2 million on ads promoting his candidacy and $193,000 on negative ads targeting Deal. The Democratic Governors Association reported no television spending on Carter’s behalf.

The balance of governor’s race spending - less than $100,000 - came from Republicans who opposed Deal’s re-election.

Deal, though, was never under any real threat from within the GOP, and Carter had no primary opposition at all. Those circumstances, as much as anything, explain the drop in spending this year. Four years ago, Deal and several other Republicans spent heavily in a primary that ultimately went to runoff as they fought for an open seat because Republican Sonny Perdue was term limited.

There were also more competitive down-ballot races in 2010, as Republicans swept statewide constitutional offices and amassed huge majorities in the Legislature. Many of those winners are now heavily favored incumbents who aren’t under pressure to spend large sums.

CPI’s figures come from data about political advertising on national cable and broadcast television in all of the country’s 210 media markets. The organization used research from Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political advertising and offers a widely accepted estimate of the money spent to air each spot.

The figures, both nationally and for Georgia, represent only part of the money spend on political advertising. They do not include the money spent on ads on radio, online and direct mail, as well television ads on local cable systems or the cost of producing the messages. That means the total cost of spending on political ads can be significantly higher.

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Follow Barrow on Twitter @BillBarrowAP.

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