With 159 days to go until Election Day, the 2016 White House hopefuls show every sign of breaking the records for campaign spending on advertising.
NBC News partner SMG Delta estimates that the Republican and Democratic contenders have already spent $491 million on television advertising alone.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) lead the pack, even after wiping out as GOP candidates. Bush and his outside groups spent $82 million on ads, while Rubio’s campaign and his super PAC supporters spent over $67 million.
The next biggest Republican spender on the list is Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), who suspended his campaign several weeks after Bush and Rubio. He spent $36 million on TV overall.
Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, who has mastered the ability to get free media exposure by simply calling into the major morning shows and cable news networks for interviews, has spent just $18.8 million.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and his allies have spent $58 million on TV ads in his insurgent candidacy against Hillary Clinton. That number is sure to rise as Sanders blankets the airwaves in the expensive California media markets ahead of the state’s primary on June 7.
For her part, Clinton has spent just under $50 million on advertising. The lion’s share, $44 million, came directly from the former secretary of state’s campaign, while $5.5 was spent by the Priorities USA Action super PAC and other outside groups.
The pace of spending is unlikely to drop as both parties pivot toward what is sure to be a tumultuous general election between Clinton and Trump.
Bloomberg reports that Tribune Media, which owns or operates 42 local TV stations, including some in the key swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, forecasts it will bring in $200 million in political ad spending this year, a 20 percent boost from 2012.
Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group expects total TV ad spending by all campaigns, including state and local races, to reach $4.4 billion, smashing the record $3.8 billion spent in 2012 when President Obama ran against former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.