Outside conservative groups aim to draw out Democratic cash in 'House surge'

Part of the strategy behind the nearly $50 million that a handful of conservative-friendly outside groups intend to dump into competitive House districts is luring national Democrats into spending on contests they'd rather not spend in from now until Election Day.

The so-called "House surge strategy," led by American Crossroads, its affiliated 501(c)(4) Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network, will target close to two dozen competitive House races with the cash. 

Some of that spending will come in districts where national Democrats have yet to commit resources and where Democratic incumbents haven't been under heavy attack from the National Republican Congressional Committee's (NRCC) independent-expenditure (IE) unit.  

The first eight House targets for American Crossroads include some districts where party spending has been lighter to this point. The group's initial targets are N.Y.-20, -22 and -25; Ohio-18, Hawaii-1, Calif.-3, Ind.-2 and Fla.-22.  

Several of the districts have already seen some spending. The NRCC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) have both spent in N.Y.-20, where Rep. Scott Murphy (D) faces Republican Chris Gibson. The NRCC has also spent fairly heavily against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and close to $250,000 against Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio).  

But in New York's 22nd district, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D) hasn't seen a competitive race in years and wasn't thought to face a real challenge in 2010 either, but Crossroads says it intends to spend big there.

"This is a district that's way behind enemy lines," said American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio. "He hasn't had a race in 18 years, and he's sitting on just $290,000." 

The group will also spend against Reps. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) and Ron Klein (D-Fla.).  

Part of the logic is that any dollar the DCCC might be convinced to spend on an incumbent like Hinchey is a dollar it can't spend in a race like Michigan's 7th, where Rep. Mark Schauer (D) and former Rep. Tim Walberg (R) are attracting sizable amounts of IE spending from the party committees. 

The DCCC is also up with new IE spending in three of the districts included among Crossroads' initial targets. The committee is dumping nearly $370,000 into a media buy in Space's district and spending on new mailers in Ind.-02 and Hawaii-01.

On Wednesday, American Crossroads announced it had raised some $13 million in the past week since President Obama started to single the group out for criticism on the midterm campaign trail.