Wild Election Night to Cap Off Crazy Campaign Season

How crazy is the political spending in Iowa? Thanks to a torrid, too close to call senate race that could tip the majority to the GOP, Des Moines looks to surpass what was spent in the presidential 2012 year, say GMs in the market. Brian Sather, president and general manager of Hearst TV’s KCCI, says the Des Moines market is on pace to finish at around $33 million in political—a wee bit better than the $32 million spent in 2012. “At the start of the year, we thought it would be a real good mid-term year,” he says. “It finished much better than we thought.”

Border station KWQC Davenport, meanwhile, benefits from spending in both Iowa and Illinois—including Iowa’s senate derby, governor’s races in both states, and a smattering of Congressional contests too. “Almost every spot the last few days has been political; I feel sorry for viewers,” says Ken Freedman, KWQC VP/GM. “The last week has just been the most compressed inventory I have ever seen—more than 2012.”

PAC money is, of course, driving the madcap spending. Around 70% of the political spots in Des Moines are bought by super PACs, says Dale Woods, president and general manager of WHO, and the rest by candidates themselves. "That changes the dynamics of everything," notes Woods.

The madness is not limited to Iowa, of course, with hot races in North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and a number of other markets. It’s “wall to wall ads” in West Palm Beach, says Caroline Taplett, WPBF president and general manager, where the market looks to come in at around $19 million in political for the year. “People are fatigued by them,” she says. “It’s gotten nasty.”

The stations are doing their part, and in some cases more than that, to cover the issues and the elections. WPBF lined up exclusive commentary from the political analysts Ron Kline and Adam Hasner for Election Day newscasts, including an extra half hour at 8 p.m. “It’s been a really great differentiator for us,” says Paige Harrison, WPBF news director.

KWQC has added an extra half hour to its late news, and the sales folks will pitch in in the newsroom as “stringers,” says Freedman, watching and in-putting poll results. “We’ll have pizza, cookies, and lots of coffee,” says Freedman.

The Iowa stations have two shots at history November 4, says Woods. Gov. Terry Branstand is on course to win a record sixth term, while the state may elect its first-ever woman to Congress. "We have three opportunities (with female candidates)," says Woods. "I feel pretty good we'll send at least one to Congress."

WPBF's Hearst sibling KCCI is going live at 9 p.m. “We’ll be on the air for as long as it takes,” says Sather. “This is why we’re in this business—to serve the public.”