DNC to run spots on stimulus

As the Obama administration trumpets success from February's economic stimulus plan, its political arm is helping potentially vulnerable members of Congress who backed the bill.

Organizing for America, the offshoot of President Barack Obama's campaign that now resides within the Democratic National Committee, will run advertisements in four districts thanking Democrats for backing the stimulus package.

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The ads will run beginning Friday on local cable channels aimed at constituents of Reps. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and Zack Space (D-Ohio). Heinrich, Childers and Space all have prominent Republican candidates running against them. The ads aimed at Heinrich and Space focus on healthcare reform.

National Republicans have a recruit in mind in Chandler's central Kentucky district, according to a spokesman, but they declined to name the candidate.

Though the advertisements will be small — a Democratic National Committee spokesman called the ad buys "significant for the markets," but local cable advertising, especially in Mississippi, Kentucky and rural Ohio, is very cheap — the new advertisements mark the next step in both parties' efforts to brand the stimulus package as a winning issue for their side.

In remarks at the Brookings Institute, Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday said all 10 of the stimulus package's goals to be met by the 200th day had been achieved, citing nearly $2 billion in contracts awarded to small businesses and $62 billion in tax relief, among other benchmarks.

The advertisements paint a similarly upbeat picture.

"Times are tough, but Congressman Ben Chandler is fighting for us. He supported the jobs and Economic Recovery Act which rescued our economy from the brink of disaster and provided the largest middle-class tax cut in American history," says the advertisement running in Kentucky. "The Recovery Act is providing millions in funding for projects right here in Kentucky, creating and preserving jobs here instead of shipping more American jobs overseas."

But Republicans maintain the numbers show a different story, and statistics released Thursday give them a strong case. The government said 570,000 Americans filed for jobless benefits in the week ending Aug. 29, higher than the 564,000 economists forecasted. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remains at 9.4 percent.

The Republican National Committee was quick to release a research document accusing Biden of "ignoring reality," and campaign committees used Biden's address to attack the stimulus.

"So far the Obama administration is firing off blanks as Americans are staring down the barrel of a jobless recovery," said Ken Spain, communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, in an e-mail to reporters. "Maybe the vice president can shoot straight with middle-class voters today and answer the simple question: Where are the jobs?"

The economy remains the most pressing issue on voters' minds, according to recent polls, though its influence has slipped. As Congress turns to healthcare reform, 27 percent say the economy remains the most important problem facing the nation, down from 53 percent in February, according to the most recent poll from the Pew Research Center. One in five voters said it was healthcare that was most important.

Still, even though its importance has dropped, the economy is likely to play a major factor in the 2010 midterms. As both parties struggle to define and redefine the stimulus plan, to the victor may go the spoils.