Outside interest groups have invested nearly $8.4 million since the primary to try to influence voters in the Indiana Senate race – and more spending is on the way.
Since the election cycle began, independent groups have spent more than $13.6 million on the race, which includes spending during the primary, according to the FEC. That's the sixth highest amount of outside spending among Senate races nationwide.
Only the spending on races in Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas and Florida has been higher.
Four groups –—two supporting Republican Richard Mourdock and two supporting Democrat Joe Donnelly — have already spent more than $1 million during the general election campaigns, according to independent expenditure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
And the Associated Press reports that the GOP-affiliated Crossroads GPS will spend another $2 million in Indiana before Election Day.
Most of the money has been spent on advertising — much of it on television but tens of thousands of dollars have gone to web-based ads, as well.
It's no surprise. Political pundits have put the race into either "toss up" or "leans Republican" categories, even as GOP candidates have established significant leads in other statewide races.
"We put Indiana in the toss-up column because what little polling there has been find the race is a dead-heat," said Geoffrey Skelley, an analyst at the University of Virginia's Center on Politics. "At the end of the day, it's easier to see Mourdock winning just because (GOP presidential hopeful Mitt) Romney will win the state. But we're being careful – Mourdock will likely do worse than Romney, which creates more uncertainty."
The $8.4 million in spending data is based on reports filed with the Federal Election Commission through Tuesday. The reports detail spending by individuals, groups, political committees, corporations or unions that advocate the election or defeat of candidates. They do not include spending by the candidates' campaign committees.
According to the FEC, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has spent nearly $1.4 million on the race, all of it since Labor Day. Last week, the group launched its third ad in Indiana as it tries to pick up a seat now held by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, whom Mourdock defeated in the GOP primary.
"The rich get richer while our kids pay the price," the committee says in the ad, which focuses on higher education spending. "That's the Mourdock plan – and is that what we want for Indiana?"
The race's next highest spender is Club for Growth, a conservative group that endorsed Mourdock even before he defeated Lugar. It has spent nearly $1.3 million in the race since the primary, which includes nearly $500,000 just this month on TV ads.
Although the independent groups are prohibited from coordinating with the campaigns, the Club for Growth ads represent a larger effort by Republicans to remind voters that Donnelly has voted for key legislation backed by President Barack Obama.
"Joe Donnelly has repeatedly joined with the liberals in Congress to rubberstamp the Obama agenda and he's often made votes to expand government and kill jobs without a single Republican voting with him," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said last week when the group released its latest ad.
"A vote for Joe Donnelly is a vote to kill Hoosier jobs and keep the same failed policies in place, which is why Hoosiers should vote for Richard Mourdock in November," Chocola said.
Other groups spending at least $500,000, as reported in FEC data through Tuesday:
áNational Republican Senatorial Committee, $1.25 million
áMajority PAC (Democratic group), $1.12 million
áCrossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Republican-affiliated group), $1.08 million
áFreedomworks for America (conservative group), $855,000
áAmerican Action Network (Republican-affiliated group), $613,000
áCenter Forward (a centrist group with Democratic leanings), $600,000
Lesley Weidenbener is a reporter with TheStatehouseFile.com, a news web service powered by Franklin College journalism faculty and students.