DCCC's $51.5M ad blitz

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has reserved $51.5 million of television advertising in 32 congressional districts.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has reserved $51.5 million of television advertising in 32 congressional districts.

The allocation reveals an aggressive posture toward the midterm elections, with 27 Republican-held districts targeted and only five Democratic districts identified as needing the defense of DCCC cash.

By reserving the ad space early, the DCCC has tipped its hand as the August recess begins; the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is circulating the list of targets.

The $51.5 million total exceeds previously reported figures by $20 million and confirms that Democrats will be on offense for much of the fall in states such as Connecticut, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio as Republicans circle the wagons to protect their majority in the House.

The list contains few surprises, but early advertising reservations are the best indicator to date of where national Democrats will spend their money this fall.

Aligned interest groups and political action committees often follow the national committees’ leads in funding candidates, so the reserved airtime often signals the priority races for each party.

NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said his committee, which had nearly $29.5 million on hand at the end of June, had not yet reserved airtime for the fall.

With $32 million on hand at the end of June, the DCCC had a slight fundraising advantage over its GOP rival, and much of that money should be used to pay for television advertising in the final weeks before the Nov. 7 election.

DCCC spokesman Bill Burton declined to comment on the committee’s advertising strategy.

NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) referred to the DCCC’s $50-million-plus spending plans during a closed-door meeting with colleagues last week to goad them into redoubling their own efforts.

Despite playing defense for almost the whole cycle, Reynolds criticized Democratic recruitment and predicted Republicans would retain the House this fall despite slumping polls and aggressive Democratic campaigning.

“The House Republican majority will return in the 110th Congress,” Reynolds told reporters Friday. “It certainly isn’t going to be pretty, but trust me when I say it’s going to be a lot tougher on the other guys.”

In running down the list of vulnerable incumbents during that same briefing, Reynolds seemed to have the DCCC reservation list on his mind.

The House Democratic campaign operation has reserved time targeting Republican Reps. Nancy Johnson (five weeks, $1.75 million), Christopher Shays (four weeks, $362,500) and Rob Simmons (five weeks, $1.9 million) in Connecticut; John Hostettler (11 weeks, $1.42 million) and Mike Sodrel (six weeks, $1.3 million) in Indiana; Steve Chabot (four weeks, $721,000), Bob Ney (three weeks, $1.55 million) and Deborah Pryce (three weeks, $1.2 million) in Ohio; and Mike Fitzpatrick (four weeks, $2.29 million), Jim Gerlach (four weeks, $3.07 million) and Curt Weldon (four weeks, $2.32 million) in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Notably absent from the DCCC list were Republican Reps. Chris Chocola (Ind.), who is considered one of the GOP’s most vulnerable incumbents, and Anne Northup (Ky.), whose Louisville district has been a perpetual target for congressional Democrats. Reynolds did not mention either candidate during last week’s briefing.

Campaign-finance laws prohibit any official coordination between individual campaigns and the national parties, including the congressional campaign committees, so the reservations can be a big boost to some campaigns and a hit to others left off the lists.

Because advertising rates usually increase in the fall, campaigns can save money by reserving time in the summer before demand for goes up. Many of these reservations are nonbinding, so the DCCC can shift its resources elsewhere as the races approach, but the time becomes more expensive. The amount of time each committee reserves also gives candidates an idea of what kind of financial support they will receive from the national parties.

The list of targeted GOP incumbents includes a mix of senior and more junior lawmakers. Each of the seats is among the most competitive in the country.

The DCCC has reserved $2.74 million worth of ad time to help unseat freshman Rep. Geoff Davis (R) in northern Kentucky and $2.13 million to beat Rep. Clay Shaw (R), a 13th-term incumbent, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Republican Reps. Thelma Drake (Va.), J.D. Hayworth (Ariz.), Marilyn Musgrave (Colo.), Dave Reichert (Wash.), Charles Taylor (N.C.) and Heather Wilson (N.M.) round out the list of DCCC targets.

Democrats have also reserved significant blocks of time to pick up Republican open seats in Arizona-8, Colorado-7, Iowa-1, Illinois-6, Minnesota-6, New York-24 and Wisconsin-8. Of those, Democratic candidates face off in primaries in Arizona, Colorado and Wisconsin.

The minority party has reserved time to protect three incumbents — Reps. Melissa Bean (Ill.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa) and Alan Mollohan (W.V.) — as well as the Ohio seat vacated by Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland and the Vermont seat occupied by Bernie Sanders (I), who is running for the Senate. The reservation in Mollohan’s district is for three weeks of ads at $11,928.

With limited resources, the DCCC has steered clear of a few reportedly vulnerable Republicans, including Reps. Richard Pombo (Calif.), Jon Porter (Nev.) and John Sweeney (N.Y.), among others. “I’ve noticed that there hasn’t been too much attention on Richard [Pombo] from Democratic circles,” Reynolds told reporters last week.

Shays, who is seen as very vulnerable this cycle, also faces a comparatively small ad buy relative to his Republican colleagues in Connecticut.

The campaign committee has also avoided reserving airtime in the suburban Houston district of Republican ex-Rep. Tom DeLay, where a federal court will decide if the former majority leader must remain on the ballot despite his resignation from Congress.

The Democrat running for his seat, former Rep. Nick Lampson (Texas), had $2.1 million on hand at the end of June, and if DeLay is not on the ballot, his replacement will have fewer than 100 days to boost his name identification among district voters before they go to the polls.

Targets of Opportunity

Type of Seat District GOP Candidate    DCCC Ad Buy 

GOP Open AZ-08 Open 8 weeks, $1.69M 
  CO-07 Open 6 weeks, $2.29M 
   IA-01 Open 10 weeks, $2.1M 
   IL-06 Open 3 weeks, $2.33M 
   MN-06 Open 4 weeks, $1.39M 
   NY-24 Open  6 weeks, $797K 
   WI-08 Open 9 weeks, $667K 
          
GOP Incumbent
 
  AZ-05 J.D. Hayworth 5 weeks, $1.7M 
   CO-04 Marilyn Musgrave 2 weeks,$630K 
   CT-02 Rob Simmons 5 weeks, $1.9M 
   CT-04 Christopher Shays  4 weeks,$362.5K 
   CT-05 Nancy Johnson 5 weeks, $1.75M 
   FL-22 Clay Shaw 5 weeks, $2.13M 
   IN-02 Chris Chocola    
    IN-08 John Hostettler 11 weeks, $1.42M 
   IN-09 Mike Sodrel 6 weeks, $1.3M 
   KY-03 Anne Northup    
  KY-04 Geoff Davis 6 weeks, $2.74M 
   NC-11 Charles Taylor 8 weeks, $1.41M 
   NM-01 Heather Wilson 8 weeks, $2.1M 
   OH-01 Steve Chabot 4 weeks, $721K 
   OH-15 Deborah Pryce 3 weeks, $1.2M 
   OH-18 Bob Ney 3 weeks, $1.55M 
   PA-06 Jim Gerlach 4 weeks, $3.07M 
   PA-07 Curt Weldon 4 weeks, $2.32M 
   PA-08 Mike Fitzpatrick 4 weeks, $2.29M 
   VA-02 Thelma Drake 8 weeks, $850K 
   WA-08 Dave Reichert 4 weeks, $1.49M 

Dem Open 
  OH-06 Open 3 weeks, $147K 
   VT-al Open 8 weeks, $632K 

Dem Incumbent 
  IA-03 Leonard Boswell 10 weeks,$920.5K 
   IL-08 Melissa Bean 3 weeks, $2.32M 
   WV-01 Alan Mollohan 3 weeks, $11,928

Source: NRCC