The 2020 presidential race is shaping up to be a record year for political ad spending — and digital is poised to land a larger share of that spending. Democrats are fired up (with more than 20 Dems running for president), President Trump is aiming to bank a billion dollars for his reelection effort, and campaign managers conditioned by digital media will be in charge of many campaigns.

Nevertheless, most estimates for political ad spending are wildly exaggerated. Many of these estimates simply inflate previous studies that implausibly showed more money spent on political ads than was raised and spent on all items in all political campaigns.

Politics, of course, is not the most transparent business. There remains limited visibility into some major areas of campaign spending. While there are some significant unknowns in answering these questions, objective data and informed extrapolations from a variety of sources can provide guidance.

Spending Must Be Surgical