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 WalzGun debate back in focus for states after mass shootings Minnesota program will pay homeowners to transform lawns into bee gardens as species inches closer to extinction Minnesota governor signs law making marital rape illegal MORE and Rick NolanRichard (Rick) Michael NolanHold off on anti-mining hysteria until the facts are in Minnesota New Members 2019 Republicans pick up seat in Minnesota’s ‘Iron range’ MORE. President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future 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 LewisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota Republicans must push through genuine health care reform MORE and Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenHopes dim for passage of Trump trade deal Fight over Trump's new NAFTA hits key stretch Blue states angry over SALT cap should give fiscal sobriety a try 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 CostellloHead of Pennsylvania GOP resigns over alleged explicit texts Lobbying world Overnight Energy: Park Service closing Joshua Tree after shutdown damage | Dems deliver trash from parks to White House | Dems offer bills to block offshore drilling | Oil lobby worries about Trump trade fight MORE (R) and former GOP Reps. Patrick Meehan and Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller testimony gives Trump a boost as Dems ponder next steps The Hill's 12:30 Report: Muller testimony dominates Washington Lawmakers, press hit the courts for charity tennis event MORE. The other is home to Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickHouse Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Ensuring quality health care for those with intellectual disabilities and autism House Democrats target 2020 GOP incumbents in new ad 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 RothfusThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 Pennsylvania New Members 2019 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 RohrabacherThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz Former GOP Rep. Rohrabacher joins board of cannabis company MORE. It also spans all of the district being vacated by Rep. Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceMystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp House panel advances bill to protect elections from foreign interference MORE (R) and part of the district currently held by retiring Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaThe Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back Darrell Issa eyes return to Congress Trump's 2020 campaign strategy is to be above the law 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 WarrenSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch 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 DenhamEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Ex-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine 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 BeraSeniors deserve access to Health Savings Accounts Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations Overnight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran 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 CostaBiden, Harris lead in 2020 endorsements House GOP secures last-minute change to gun bill Trump tells FEMA not to send more money to California for forest fires 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 ClintonTrump takes aim at media after 'hereby' ordering US businesses out of China Trump knocks news of CNN hiring ex-FBI official McCabe Taylor Swift says Trump is 'gaslighting the American public' MORE won in 2016. 

Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Democrat running for Will Hurd's seat raises over million in first 100 days of campaign Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges 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 CulbersonLack of transparency may put commercial space program at risk Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers 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 SessionsHillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Lawmaker sees political payback in fight over 'deepfakes' measure | Tech giants to testify at hearing on 'censorship' claims | Google pulls the plug on AI council Lawmaker alleges political payback in failed 'deepfakes' measure As Russia collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges 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-LehtinenRepublican Salazar seeks rematch with Shalala in key Miami House district Latina leaders: 'It's a women's world more than anything' Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm MORE. But they’re buckling up for a serious race in Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloOvernight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument Carbon tax shows new signs of life in Congress Democratic lawmaker pushes back on Castro's call to repeal law making illegal border crossings a crime 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 MurphyLawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Democratic leaders seek to have it both ways on impeachment Senate committee advances 'deepfakes' legislation 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 MastThe 9 House Republicans who support background checks Two cats visit Capitol Hill to thank lawmakers who helped end 'kitten slaughterhouse' Buzz Aldrin marks launch of Apollo 11 mission to the moon 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.