By Patrick OConnor - 08/02/06 12:00 AM EDT
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
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
OH-06 Open 3 weeks, $147K
VT-al Open 8 weeks, $632K
IA-03 Leonard Boswell 10 weeks,$920.5K
IL-08 Melissa Bean 3 weeks, $2.32M
WV-01 Alan Mollohan 3 weeks, $11,928