Why are super PACs and other outside groups spending so little this cycle?

Fewer competitive special elections and an aversion to super PACs in the Democratic presidential primary are tamping down outside spending so far in the 2020 campaign cycle.

The $27.5 million in outside spending through Oct. 7 is less than half of what it was at this point in the 2018 cycle ($63.9 million) and substantially lower than 2016 ($49.1 million).

But with more than a year to go until November 2020, there’s still plenty of time for independent spenders –– typically super PACs that aren’t supposed to coordinate with candidates –– to catch up.

On top of that, the single-biggest donor to outside groups in 2016, Tom Steyer, has shifted his money into his own presidential bid. As a result, the presidential race has been the target of only $8.4 million in outside spending so far — less than a quarter of the total at the same point in 2016. The majority of that has come from two groups supporting Trump, the Committee to Defend the President and Great America PAC, the two biggest non-party outside spenders of this cycle.