Outside groups have spent almost $17 million just in the past two weeks on advertising and other campaigning in the battle between Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and his opponent Republican Gov. Rick Scott in Florida’s U.S. Senate election.

That spending ramped up from an already impressive $25 million that outside groups previously had spent in 2018, fueling waves of television commercials, stacks of campaign mailers, and other campaign support, according to the latest U.S. Senate independent expenditure reports, through last Friday, posted by the Federal Election Commission.

Nelson continues to be the biggest beneficiary of outside money, as more than $10.3 million was spent in the past two weeks either supporting him or attacking Scott, while $6.6 million was spent supporting Scott or attacking Nelson.

The grand total in outside spending so far: $25.6 million spent to support Nelson or oppose Scott; $17 million to support Scott or oppose Nelson.

Yet the spending is led by the pro-Scott New Republican Political Action Committee, the PAC that Scott set up as an outside group to support his campaign, and then left. It spent $5.4 million in the past two weeks and now has spent $14.8 million overall.

Not far behind was the Senate Majority Political Action Committee, the Democrats’ PAC supporting Nelson, which spent $4.5 million in the past two weeks, and now has spent $11 million in Florida, mostly bashing Scott.

Two other PACs, the Democrats’ Majority Forward and Priorities USA Action, each spent more than $2 million for Nelson’s benefit since the Sept. 30 reports, while Americans for Prosperity Action dropped more than $1 million to aid Scott’s campaign.

Priorities USA now has spent $6.4 million overall, and Majority forward, $4.5 million. Americans for Prosperity and several of its related groups have combined to spend about $1.2 million so far in Florida.

Ten other political committees have spent at least $100,000 apiece on the Nelson-Scott race. Most of them support Nelson or oppose Scott.

Though with three weeks to go, the 2018 outside spending still has not eclipsed the record set in 2016 when outside groups, mostly supporting Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and attacking Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, combined to spend $54.2 million. In 2012, the last time Nelson ran, the outside spending reached only $22.5 million.

Missing this year, compared with 2016 when Rubio last ran, is any major participation from the two primary groups supporting Republicans running for the U.S. Senate, the Senate Leadership Fund and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In 2016 the Republican leadership PACs combined to spend more than $18 million to aid Rubio. This year the Senate Leadership Fund has spent just $18,000 on online advertising to support Scott, while the NRSC has not entered the Florida contest.

The Sunshine State is not the biggest national battleground for outside groups, although it is close. The FEC reports show that more than $53 million has been spent in the U.S. Senate race in Missouri, and $42 million also has been spent in the U.S. Senate race in Indiana.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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