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Election Tracker Predicts $2.6B In Spending

No wonder the TV group owners have to put those caveats in off-year quarterly reports about the absence of political dollars.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics projections, candidates, parties, and advocacy groups will have spent $2.6 billion by the end of 2006 to try to get their respective candidates elected in 472 federal contests or building up the war chests of Senate incumbents who get to sit this one out. That's the most expensive midterm ever.

That's an 18% boost over 2002, says the group. The 2004 campaign cost $4.2 billion, but that included the presidential race.

Republicans are expected to keep their fund-raising edge at $1.4 billion to $1.2 billion, a lot of that going to "home-stretch" advertising that is blanketing the airwaves.

Topping the list of contributors are lawyers, real estate interests, and Wall Street.