Dems launch $21 million digital ad buy in top Senate races

Two major Democratic super PACs are launching a joint $21 million digital ad campaign to boost Democratic candidates in nine competitive Senate races ahead of the November midterm elections.

Priorities USA Action and Senate Majority PAC (SMP) announced Wednesday that they will spend nearly $18 million on races in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. Senate Majority PAC will separately spend $3 million on ads in Montana, Nevada, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The ads will run on social media platforms like Facebook as well as on audio streaming services like YouTube, Hulu and Spotify. The majority of the spots are focusing on taking aim at Republicans over health care, as more Democratic campaigns and groups make it a central issue this year.

"Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are desperate to hold on to power so they can stack the courts, weaken Medicare, and pass even bigger tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations at our expense," Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA Action, said in a statement.

J.B. Poersch, president of SMP, added: "With Priorities' help, we are amassing a robust and efficient digital program to communicate to voters that Democrats are the ones fighting for the middle class, while Republicans continue to look out for the wealthy and the special interests."

While Republicans currently hold a slim 51-49 seat majority in the Senate, Democrats are largely playing defense this fall, with 10 Democrats up for reelection this year in states President Trump won in 2016.

Still, Democrats are hoping to make some gains in GOP-held seats where polling has shown tight races, such as Nevada, Arizona and Tennessee, with the party seeing a narrow path to winning the Senate in November.

The Democratic super PACs going up with digital ads are defending incumbents in some of the most competitive races this cycle, including Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). They're also targeting three potential Senate pick-ups, looking to boost Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) in Arizona, former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) in Tennessee and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) in Nevada.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned on Tuesday that Republicans will be facing a "storm" in November, including in the fight for the Senate majority.

Democrats argue that health care can be a winning issue for them this cycle, with a number of red-state Senate Democrats targeting their GOP rivals over an anti-ObamaCare lawsuit.

The effort is a shift from years past including 2010, when Republicans were able to successfully rally against ObamaCare and pick up a stunning 63 seats in the House and six in the Senate.

The announcement Wednesday of millions being spent by Democratic super PACs came a day after the Senate Leadership Fund said it would spend $6.4 million on an ad blitz backing GOP candidates in a number of states to protect the Republican Senate majority.

And some Republicans quickly pushed back on the new Priorities and SMP ads. In North Dakota, the state GOP dismissed ads that accused Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) of backing special interests over constituents.

"Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer are on a mission to save their favorite Senator, but their factually inaccurate ads won't distract from Heidi Heitkamp's liberal record that North Dakotans oppose," said North Dakota Republican Party spokesman Jake Wilkins.

--Updated at 7:40 p.m.

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