US Senate high stakes spur astronomical spending in Montana

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FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2020, file photo, Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, of Montana, speaks at a manufacturing facility under construction in Bozeman, Mont. Daines is facing a challenge from Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. Political groups fighting for control of the U.S. Senate have poured more than $118 million into the contest between Bullock and Daines, with more planned in the final weeks. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

BILLINGS, Mont. – Political groups fighting for control of the U.S. Senate have poured more than $118 million into the contest between Montana's Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and Republican incumbent Steve Daines, a record shattering figure for the sparsely-populated state that dwarfs spending on a per-voter basis in all other Senate battleground states.

The cash deluge comes amid growing Republican worries they could lose control of the chamber, and as Democrats seek to reverse a years-long GOP surge in Montana including President Donald Trump winning the state by more than 20 percentage points in 2016.

For residents of Big Sky Country it means an unrelenting barrage of advertisements any time they turn on their computers, televisions and radios or open their mailboxes.

That’s set to persist through the final weeks of the election with another $22 million teed up for television, radio and digital ads targeting a fast-shrinking pool of undecided voters, according to data from the ad-tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.

By the time it’s over, the two campaigns and outside groups that span the political spectrum -- from the NRA Victory Fund to Planned Parenthood -- are expected to spend a combined $184 on advertising for each of the state’s 729,000 registered voters.

That figure does not include $6 million for mailers, door-to-door canvassing and other expenses that show up on Federal Election Commission filings from the groups.

The tally far exceeds the roughly $100 on ads per voter in Maine’s hotly-contested battle for the seat held by Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican moderate challenged by Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon.

And the Montana political ad spending is almost 10 times as much per voter being spent on ads in Colorado's Senate contest between former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and first-term Republican incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner.