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 governor announces goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050 Minnesota governor rips lawmaker for saying gun control backers should be ‘run over' This is what leadership looks like MORE and Rick NolanRichard (Rick) Michael NolanMinnesota New Members 2019 Republicans pick up seat in Minnesota’s ‘Iron range’ How America’s urban-rural divide is changing the Democratic Party MORE. President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated 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 LewisInvestigation concludes marijuana, medication impaired driver involved in GOP train crash The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MLB donated to GOP lawmaker who made controversial comments about women, minorities MORE and Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenPush for ‘Medicare for all’ worries centrist Dems Lawmakers beat lobbyists at charity hockey game The 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall 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 CostellloOvernight 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 Ex-GOP Rep. Ryan Costello joins group pushing carbon tax Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch MORE (R) and former GOP Reps. Patrick Meehan and Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentThe Hill's Morning Report - Government is funded, but for how long? Ex-GOP lawmaker says his party is having a 'Monty Python' moment on shutdown Former GOP lawmaker: Republicans know shutdown is ‘a fight they cannot win’ MORE. The other is home to Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickThe importance of moderate voters Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' 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 RohrabacherProgressives come to Omar's defense Expanding Social Security: Popular from sea to shining sea Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds MORE. It also spans all of the district being vacated by Rep. Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceFormer GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lawmakers propose banning shark fin trade Bottom Line MORE (R) and part of the district currently held by retiring Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaThe Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles Senate throws hundreds of Trump nominees into limbo 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 WarrenTrump on 2020 Dems skipping AIPAC: 'I think they're anti-Jewish' The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game 2020 Dems avoid this year's AIPAC conference 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 DenhamCrazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Polling editor says news outlets should be more cautious calling elections Rep. Valadao officially concedes in California race 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 BeraModerate Dems revive effort to stabilize ObamaCare markets The Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days Trump tells FEMA not to send more money to California for forest fires 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 CostaHouse GOP secures last-minute change to gun bill Trump tells FEMA not to send more money to California for forest fires GOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote 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 ClintonDemocratic Socialists of America endorses Sanders for president How to end the Electoral College and elect our next president by popular vote CNN town halls put network at center of Dem primary MORE won in 2016. 

Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdProperty is a fundamental right that is now being threatened The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority 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 CulbersonDem campaign chief: Medicare for All price tag 'a little scary' DCCC official says Democrats look to make 'big gains' in Texas, Georgia Democrats need a worthy climate plan 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 SessionsAs Russia collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges Top Ukrainian justice official says US ambassador gave him a do not prosecute list Dem campaign chief: Medicare for All price tag 'a little scary' 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-LehtinenThe women in white and the trails they blaze Lobbying World Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop MORE. But they’re buckling up for a serious race in Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloEx-GOP lawmaker joins marijuana trade group Dems think they're beating Trump in emergency declaration battle Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign 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 MurphyKoch-backed group pushes for new limits on Trump's tariff authority Gay Florida teen kicked out of home lands internship with Dem congresswoman Dems struggle to unify after GOP embarrasses them on procedure 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 MastLawmakers propose bill to end fed agency's deadly experiments on kittens Eight Republicans side with Dems on background checks for gun sales House passes bill expanding background checks on gun sales 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.