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. 

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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 WalzTim WalzJudge rejects Minnesota parents' attempt to force statewide school mask mandate Former Minnesota Senate Republican leader announces campaign for governor Minnesota parents sue Gov. Walz over lack of mask mandate in schools MORE and Rick NolanRichard (Rick) Michael NolanMinnesota Rep. Pete Stauber glides to victory in GOP primary Hold off on anti-mining hysteria until the facts are in Minnesota New Members 2019 MORE. President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe 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 LewisRep. Angie Craig defends Minnesota House seat in race clouded by legal confusion Smith wins reelection in Minnesota Klobuchar 'feeling good' about Democrats taking control of Senate MORE and Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenThe Biden 15 percent global tax puts foreign companies ahead of American workers House panel opens probe into Tom Reed over sexual misconduct allegations GOP Rep. Tom Reed accused of sexual misconduct 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

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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 CostellloRep. Brendan Boyle decides against Pennsylvania Senate bid Pennsylvania's Democratic lt. governor files to run for Senate Bottom Line MORE (R) and former GOP Reps. Patrick Meehan and Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentThe Memo: Never Trumpers sink into gloom as Gonzalez bows out The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Influential Republicans threaten to form new party MORE. The other is home to Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickFifth House Republican comes out in support of bipartisan infrastructure bill Democratic leaders racing toward Monday infrastructure vote House GOP to whip against bipartisan infrastructure bill 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 RothfusConor Lamb defeats Trump-backed challenger for reelection in Pennsylvania CNN's Tapper tried to talk GOP candidate out of running against Democratic incumbent: report Lobbying world 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 RohrabacherNow someone wants to slap a SPACE Tax on Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, et al 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Former Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building MORE. It also spans all of the district being vacated by Rep. Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceBottom line Bottom line California was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success MORE (R) and part of the district currently held by retiring Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaHow lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation Dozens of Sacramento students remain in Afghanistan after US pullout, district says Seven San Diego-area families evacuated from Afghanistan after summer trip abroad 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 Warren11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill Senate Democrats seeking information from SPACs, questioning 'misaligned incentives' UN secretary-general blasts space tourism 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 DenhamBottom line Bottom line Business groups breathe sigh of relief over prospect of divided government 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 BeraOvernight Defense & National Security — Blinken heads to the hot seat Dozens of Sacramento students remain in Afghanistan after US pullout, district says Lobbying world 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 CostaWHIP LIST: How House Democrats say they'll vote on infrastructure bill GOP ramps up pressure on vulnerable Democrats in spending fight House Democrats break internal impasse to adopt .5T budget plan 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 ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 MORE won in 2016. 

Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFirst Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel 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. 

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In Houston, longtime Rep. John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonNASA's Europa Clipper has been liberated from the Space Launch System Texas Republicans sound post-2020 alarm bells 2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program 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 SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results 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. 

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Democrats appear more likely to flip the Miami-area seat held by retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenHigh-speed rail getting last minute push in Congress Bottom line Bottom line MORE. But they’re buckling up for a serious race in Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloNation's fraught politics leads to fear, scars and exits Direct air capture is a crucial bipartisan climate policy Biden's corporate tax hike is bad for growth — try a carbon tax instead 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 MurphyBiden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions House passes bill to prevent shutdown and suspend debt limit GOP ramps up pressure on vulnerable Democrats in spending fight 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 MastReps. Greene, Roy fined for not wearing masks on House floor The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Texas's near abortion ban takes effect Absent Democrats give Republicans new opening on Afghanistan 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.