Reading between the lines of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s $44-million fall ad reservation reveals some surprises.

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The buy, which spans 36 districts with both offensive and defensive opportunities for the party, leaves out some top Democratic targets, like Rep. Joe Heck in Nevada’s 3rd District, Rep. Chris Gibson in New York’s 19th District, Rep. Steve Pearce in New Mexico’s 2nd District, and Arkansas’s 4th District and West Virginia’s 2nd District, both Republican seats left open with their current representatives running for Senate.

Arkansas is the only one of those states with a competitive statewide race, meaning ad buys will remain relatively cheap through the fall and Democrats have no immediate need to lock in lower rates with early buys. And Gibson is facing Democrat Sean Eldridge, who is expected to self-fund.

It also passes over Rep. Patrick Murphy in Florida’s 18th District, once considered a top GOP target but who has emerged as a prolific fundraiser and has avoided any strong opponents. The same goes for Rep. Cheri BustosCheri BustosDems wonder: Can GOP even pass a budget? Lawmakers press Mattis on Marines nude photo scandal THE MEMO: For Trump, an early test of leadership MORE in Illinois’s 17th District, who looks safer than she did at the beginning of the cycle.

But some of the inclusions speak as loudly as the DCCC’s omissions. The committee is spending on Pennsylvania's 6th District, where Rep. Jim GerlachJim GerlachFormer reps: Increase support to Ukraine to deter Russia With Trump and GOP Congress, job creators can go on offense Big names free to lobby in 2016 MORE (R) is retiring, and the state’s 8th District, where Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) is running for reelection, both tough gets for the party. It’s also reserving airtime in the districts of Michigan GOP Reps. Dan BenishekDan BenishekRepublican groups launch final ad blitz in key House battlegrounds Tea Party class reassesses record Michigan Republican to retire MORE, Tim Walberg, Kerry BentivolioKerry BentivolioIndiana Republican: Leaders duped me Reindeer farmer saves 'cromnibus' with yes vote High drama as .1T spending package advances by one vote MORE and Mike Rogers, who’s retiring. And they’ve reserved time in Arkansas’ open 2nd District, and in Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) district, both of which are long shots.

All four of those states have competitive statewide races, and locking in lower advertising rates early gives Democrats the option of taking advantage of a favorable climate, depending on how the top of the ticket performs, for cheap.

The committee also hinted the party’s not entirely confident in California’s 26th District, where Democratic Rep. Julia BrownleyJulia BrownleyLawmakers press Mattis on Marines nude photo scandal A guide to the committees: House House caucus to focus on business in Latin America MORE is up for reelection, Connecticut’s 5th District, where Republicans haven’t found a strong challenger for Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D), and, perhaps most surprisingly, New York’s 11th District, where it plans to spend nearly $1 million this fall despite GOP Rep. Michael Grimm’s indictment.

Some of those holes will be filled by outside Democratic groups, which are barred from coordinating from the parties but can now see where they’re needed. And the reservations can — and will — shift as the map develops.

Indeed, the early buys are a reminder of how much things can change in a few short months.

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

VETS GROUP TARGETS DEMS: Concerned Veterans For America is launching a six-figure ad campaign targeting Sens. Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (N.C.), Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist MORE (La.), Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal Senate Dems: We won't help pass additional health bills MORE (N.H.), Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Mark WarnerMark WarnerSunday shows preview: Aftermath of failed healthcare bill Devin Nunes has jeopardized the oversight role of Congress Senators push Trump on defense deals with India MORE (Va.) — all facing competitive reelection fights — and Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThis obscure Senate rule could let VP Mike Pence fully repeal ObamaCare once and for all Sharron Angle to challenge GOP rep in Nevada Fox's Watters asks Trump whom he would fire: Baldwin, Schumer or Zucker MORE (Nev.), meant to pressure the lawmakers into backing the 2014 Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act.

MS-SEN (COCHRAN): Jeppie Barbour, the brother of former Gov. Haley Barbour, has endorsed state Sen. Chris McDaniel in his primary challenge to Sen. Thad CochranThad CochranOvernight Defense: FBI chief confirms Trump campaign, Russia probe | Senators push for Afghan visas | Problems persist at veterans' suicide hotline Senators ask to include visas for Afghans in spending bill Shutdown politics return to the Senate MORE (R-Miss.) — breaking with both of his sons, who are actively supporting Cochran, and his brother, who has endorsed the senator. Meanwhile, Citizens United launched a new ad for McDaniel that features former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won the state’s GOP primary when he ran for president last year, endorsing the challenger. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will appear at a rally for McDaniel on Friday, just four days out from the primary.

OK-SEN (OPEN): Former Oklahoma Speaker T.W. Shannon (R) picked up the backing of former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) in his bid for the Senate.

OR-SEN (MERKLEY): A new Public Policy Polling survey gives Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Dem senator accuses Trump of 'dangerous tilt towards authoritarianism' Overnight Regulation: Dems punch back in fight over CEO pay rule MORE (D) 50 percent support among Oregon registered voters to GOP challenger Monica Wehby’s 36 percent support, with another 15 percent of respondents undecided. The survey also shows Wehby deeply underwater with voters, while Merkley is seen favorably by a plurality of respondents.

MI-SEN (OPEN): Former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) dodged questions about her opposition to the auto bailout and struggled to coherently answer a question about net neutrality.


BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

DCCC CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR SHINSEKI'S RESIGNATION: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) became the first member of House Democratic leadership to call for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiShulkin confirmed to lead Dept. of Veterans Affairs Dems to Trump: Exclude VA from hiring freeze Dems, GOP battle over pace of Trump confirmations MORE to resign.

CA-52 (PETERS): Republican Carl DeMaio's campaign office was broken into and vandalized.

CA-31 (OPEN): The League of Conservation Voters officially endorsed Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D), days after it sent out mailers attacking former Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.).

KS-04 (POMPEO): Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) on Thursday announced his plans to primary Rep. Mike Pompeo, looking to take back his old seat. The Club for Growth immediately came out backing Pompeo in the race.

AL-06 (OPEN): Surgeon Chad Mathis, one of a handful candidates vying for the GOP nomination in Alabama’s heavily Republican 6th District, launched a new ad just five days out from the primary featuring his kids panning his cooking skills but touting his potential as a member of Congress. 


2016 WATCH

O'MALLEY: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is heading to Iowa, the latest signal he's keeping his options open on a 2016 run.

CLINTON: Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham Clinton“60 Minutes” tracks how fake news spreads Ill. gov candidate runs as fresh face, despite ties to political machine Huma Abedin 'working hard' on marriage with Anthony Weiner: report MORE will face questions about Benghazi, the 2016 presidential election and her new book in a joint interview Fox News has secured for next month. Meanwhile, she stopped in for a surprise lunch with President Obama on Thursday.


QUOTE OF THE DAY

"I've been confused for Anthony Weiner twice now. I don't know how this keeps happening."

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)