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Dem, GOP groups prepare spending blitz for midterms

Dem, GOP groups prepare spending blitz for midterms
© Greg Nash

Election Day is less than five months away, and candidates, committees and outside groups are pouring money into races around the country in the hopes of clinching the House majority. 

The biggest players — the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the pro-Democrat House Majority PAC (HMP) and the pro-Republican Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) — have reserved a combined $100 million in advertising time for the fall. 

While there is even more spending to come as the battlefield and advertising rates ebb and flow, here are the top five states with the most ad reservations by these major groups. 

Minnesota

The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is one of the most competitive states in the 2018 election cycle. That’s why the four groups have reserved a combined $22.7 million, more than in any other state. 

Most of that spending focuses on the Minneapolis media market, which encompasses much of the state and its most competitive congressional districts. 

Republicans are setting their sights on two open seats vacated by Democratic Reps. Tim WalzTimothy (Tim) James WalzMinnesota Dems worry about Ellison allegations as state AG race tightens How America’s urban-rural divide is changing the Democratic Party The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh, Ford saga approaches bitter end MORE and Rick NolanRichard (Rick) Michael NolanHow America’s urban-rural divide is changing the Democratic Party Bezos honored for public service at DC gala House battlefield expands as ad wars hit new peak MORE. President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE won both of those more rural districts handily in 2016, but the Democratic incumbents had kept their seats blue. But now their retirements are robbing the Democrats of their incumbency advantage, and the GOP has already deployed Trump himself to rally in the 8th District to boost GOP turnout there. 

Meanwhile, Democrats are eyeing seats held by GOP Reps. Jason LewisJason Mark LewisPaul Ryan to campaign for 25 vulnerable House Republicans How America’s urban-rural divide is changing the Democratic Party Dem hopes for House majority run through Minnesota suburbs MORE and Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenPaul Ryan to campaign for 25 vulnerable House Republicans How America’s urban-rural divide is changing the Democratic Party The bipartisan PACT Act would ensure access to life-saving bone marrow transplants for Medicare beneficiaries MORE  — Trump barely won Lewis’s seat in 2016 and lost Paulsen’s by 10 points. Both districts are more urban or suburban, so Democrats are hoping they can continue to overperform with moderates in areas like those. 

Pennsylvania

The Keystone State is home to a handful of marquee races that could help decide the House majority, something reflected in the more than $20 million in spending that has been booked there.

The state became instantly more competitive earlier this year when the state Supreme Court redrew Pennsylvania’s congressional boundaries. Thanks in part to those changes, as well as a handful of retirements, Democrats have at least five strong opportunities to flip seats. 

Most of the spending is in the Philadelphia media market, which includes four competitive districts. Three are open seats vacated by retiring Rep. Ryan CostelloRyan Anthony CostellloGOP lawmaker rips Trump for Stormy Daniels attack: This is 'unbecoming of any man' Trump goes on 12-tweet Twitter tirade Trump calls Stormy Daniels 'Horseface' MORE (R) and former GOP Reps. Patrick Meehan and Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentMidterms put GOP centrists in peril House GOP group cuts financial support for Coffman, Bishop GOP House candidate placed on leave from longtime position after sexual misconduct allegation MORE. The other is home to Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickGroup begins 'Nuns on the Bus' tour to protest Trump tax law ahead of midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Historic vote on Kavanaugh to come amid protests, anger Dems announce third-quarter fundraising bonanza MORE (R), one of the most vulnerable incumbents this cycle. 

Fitzpatrick’s race will likely be the most competitive of the bunch. He’s taking on Democratic philanthropist Scott Wallace in a district that Trump narrowly lost in 2016. 

Democratic lawyer Mary Gay Scanlon and Air Force veteran Chrissy Houlahan (D) are the heavy favorites to replace Meehan and Costello, respectively. Another Democratic lawyer, Susan Wild, will run against former Olympian Marty Nothstein to replace Dent in another Democratic-leaning district. 

The NRCC has reserved $7.8 million of ad time in Philadelphia, compared to the DCCC’s $1.7 million and HMP’s $3 million. CLF has earmarked $4 million specifically toward protecting Fitzpatrick on the air. 

The NRCC is also planning to drop at least $3.8 million in Pittsburgh, home to GOP Rep. Keith RothfusKeith James RothfusDems target small cluster of states in battle for House Poll: Lamb has double-digit lead in Pennsylvania House race The Hill's Morning Report — Historic vote on Kavanaugh to come amid protests, anger MORE. Redistricting puts Rothfus in the toughest race of his career, against fellow Rep. Conor Lamb (D). 

California

California’s prominence on the midterm map won’t surprise many, and the four groups have already reserved more than $19 million in ads there. 

The big money has centered on Los Angeles, the media market that includes districts held by GOP Reps. Steve Knight, Mimi Walters and Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherMidterms in 2018 become most expensive in history Dems target small cluster of states in battle for House GOP super PAC pushes back on report it skipped ad buys for California's Rohrabacher, Walters MORE. It also spans all of the district being vacated by Rep. Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Midterms in 2018 become most expensive in history Dems target small cluster of states in battle for House MORE (R) and part of the district currently held by retiring Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaMidterms in 2018 become most expensive in history Dems target small cluster of states in battle for House Painting of Trump with past GOP presidents hung up in White House MORE (R). All of those races are considered among the toughest in the country for the GOP. 

Knight is running against Katie Hill (D), who runs a Los Angeles nonprofit to help the homeless; Walters will take on professor Katie Porter (D), a protege of Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPavlich: The left’s identity politics fall apart Graham: It would be 'like, terrible' if a DNA test found I was Iranian Iranian-American group calls on Graham to apologize for 'disgusting' DNA remark MORE (D-Mass.); Young Kim (R) faces philanthropist Gil Cisneros (D) for Royce’s seat; Rohrabacher will take on real estate developer Harley Rouda (D); and local politician Diane Harkey (R) is running against environmental lawyer Mike Levin (D) for Issa’s seat.

HMP has booked $5.2 million in ads in Los Angeles, while CLF has reserved at least $2 million for each of the seats held by Walters, Knight and Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamDems target small cluster of states in battle for House Poll: Dems lead in 5 critical California House seats Dems announce third-quarter fundraising bonanza MORE (R). CLF is also spending $2 million on advertising to help Kim.

Levin will receive a boost by HMP’s $1.24 million in ad reservations for the San Diego market.

Further north, in the Sacramento area, both the NRCC and HMP have each booked about $1.5 million in ad reservations. The toughest race in that area will be Democratic Rep. Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraU.S. foreign aid empowers women and girls worldwide The importance of advancing the U.S.-India partnership Dem, GOP groups prepare spending blitz for midterms MORE’s reelection fight against former Marine Andrew Grant (R), but the race still tilts in Bera’s favor. 
And the NRCC is also spending $1.2 million in the San Joaquin Valley’s television market, where Rep. Jim CostaJames (Jim) Manuel CostaModerate Blue Dogs endorse House rules overhaul to break gridlock Midterm polling data favors Democrats — in moderation Twitter reverses decision to block GOP candidate from promoting video MORE (D) will face off against former congressional aide Elizabeth Heng (R). Costa’s district is reliably blue, but he’s won by narrow margins in past midterm years. 

Texas

Texas is home to three vulnerable Republican incumbents in districts Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBudowsky: Closing message for Democrats Election Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach GOP mocks Clinton after minor vehicle collision outside Mendendez campaign event MORE won in 2016. 

Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdElection Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters for midterms Election Countdown: Florida candidates face new test from hurricane | GOP optimistic about expanding Senate majority | Top-tier Dems start heading to Iowa | Bloomberg rejoins Dems | Trump heads to Pennsylvania rally MORE (R) knows nothing but competitive races — his massive border district is always up for grabs. He’s running against Gina Ortiz Jones (D), an Iraq War veteran.

Hurd will be the beneficiary of a portion of the $1.8 million in spending the NRCC booked for San Antonio, as well as the $2.1 million CLF has set aside for his race so far. 

In Houston, longtime Rep. John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonKavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger Election Countdown: Big fundraising numbers in fight for Senate | Haley resigns in surprise move | Says she will back Trump in 2020 | Sanders hitting midterm trail | Collins becomes top Dem target | Takeaways from Indiana Senate debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Ryan blasts Medicare for all | Senate Dems to force vote on 'junk' insurance plans | Ads hit Collins over Kavanaugh vote MORE (R) is gearing up for the fight of his political life against lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D). Culberson had once been seen as an exemplar of a congressman unprepared for the 2018 environment, but he’s since kicked his campaign into gear. 

Now, CLF has reserved $2.45 million in ads to boost his campaign, while HMP has booked $2 million to knock him down. 

Dallas-area Republican Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Vulnerable Republicans throw ‘Hail Mary’ on pre-existing conditions Marijuana and the midterms MORE rounds out the trifecta, but while he’s long been seen as less vulnerable than Hurd or Culberson, that could change. 

Democrats have a strong challenger in former professional football player and Obama official Colin Allred. And Dallas has also seen a major demographic change that has made the area more diverse. Those dynamics were enough for the Cook Political Report to move Sessions’s race to a “toss-up” earlier this month. 

Florida

Florida is also home to a handful of battleground races where Democrats will likely be on the offensive. 

Democrats appear more likely to flip the Miami-area seat held by retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenGOP group makes late play in Iowa seat once seen as lost Dems outraising Republicans in final stretch of midterms Electoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida MORE. But they’re buckling up for a serious race in Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloDems see blue 'tsunami' in House as Senate path narrows GOP spokeswoman says Republicans will lose House seats in midterms Cook Political Report shifts 7 more races towards Dems MORE’s district, where the Republican congressman hopes to have forged enough of an independent path to avoid being dragged down by Trump in the heavily Hispanic district. 

The NRCC has $3.2 million of air time booked in the Miami market, while CLF has $2.5 million devoted specifically to him. But Democrats are planning to get in on the fun too, with $2 million from the DCCC and $1.1 million from HMP. 

The state also has two additional races where both sides are looking to flip a seat, but are waiting for primaries to decide their candidates. 

Republicans are looking for revenge in the Orlando area after Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Bipartisan trio asks US intelligence to investigate ‘deepfakes’ MORE (D) won a tough race in 2016. HMP has $1.9 million reserved in that media market, and much will likely go to helping Murphy. 

Democrats, meanwhile, are targeting Rep. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastDems outraising Republicans in final stretch of midterms Cook moves status of 6 House races as general election sprint begins Rep. Mast wins GOP nod after facing two primary challengers MORE (R) in the West Palm Beach market after his strong campaign in 2016. But so far, HMP is the only group to play in that market, with a modest $400,000 in reservations.