House Democrats make initial ad buys in battleground states

House Democrats make initial ad buys in battleground states
© Greg Nash

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has reserved more than $18 million in fall television time, an initial foray into the media market that shines a light on where the fight for control of the House of Representatives will likely be focused.

Several of the key battlegrounds are in states and districts where President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump hits 'radical left,' news media, China in Independence Day address Kaepernick on July Fourth: 'We reject your celebration of white supremacy' Jaime Harrison seeks to convince Democrats he can take down Lindsey Graham MORE are most likely to center their own paid media blitzes. Many of the same areas also have competitive Senate contests, a reflection that the epicenters of American politics are converging on a few key regions.

The DCCC has purchased $1.8 million in airtime in the Phoenix market, where Reps. Tom O'Halleran (D) and Dave Schweikert (R) both face competitive reelection battles. Arizona has emerged as a key pickup opportunity for Senate Democrats challenging Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Political establishment takes a hit as chaos reigns supreme MORE (R), and signs increasingly point to a competitive race in the state between Biden and Trump. The president won Arizona in 2016, but Biden has led every public poll there since December.

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The committee is blocking off $2.3 million in three Iowa markets — Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport — where the parties will contest seats held by Reps. Abby FinkenauerAbby Lea FinkenauerYoung leaders and young activists prove we can fulfill the promise of 'justice for all' Democrats gain lead in three of Iowa's four House districts: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump, GOP on defense as nationwide protests continue MORE (D), Cindy AxneCindy AxneDemocrats gain lead in three of Iowa's four House districts: poll The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight Former Rep. David Young wins GOP primary in bid for old House seat MORE (D) and Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingColorado GOP Rep. Scott Tipton defeated in primary upset Bottom line House GOP leaders condemn candidate who said black people should be 'proud' of Confederate statues MORE (R), as well as an open seat being vacated by Rep. David Loebsack (D). The two parties are also fighting over a Senate seat held by Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Senate Republicans defend Trump's response on Russian bounties MORE (R).

Democrats have reserved $1.4 million in three Maine media markets to protect Rep. Jared Golden, the only Democrat who split his votes on the two impeachment charges against Trump. Golden became the first member of Congress to win election because of a ranked-choice voting system when he beat then-Rep. Bruce PoliquinBruce Lee PoliquinHouse Democrats make initial ad buys in battleground states The 5 most vulnerable senators in 2020 Maine Democrat announces he'll vote for only one article of impeachment against Trump MORE (R) in 2018. Trump won his district, and its lone electoral vote, in 2016. 

The party is betting big in Pennsylvania, where they plan $910,000 in spending in the Philadelphia market, $1 million in Harrisburg and $400,000 for two weeks of time in the Wilkes Barre-Scranton markets.

Rep. Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance Republican Jim Bognet to challenge Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright MORE (D) represents the Scranton area. Rep. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryGOP-Trump fractures on masks open up Innovation in veteran posttraumatic care requires collaboration Democrats release bilingual ads on police reform bill MORE (R) holds the Harrisburg-based district. And Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickKaren Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - States are pausing reopening Democrats release bilingual ads on police reform bill MORE (R), one of the few Republicans who holds a district Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats try to turn now into November The Memo: Unhappy voters could deliver political shocks beyond Trump On The Trail: Trump, coronavirus fuel unprecedented voter enthusiasm MORE won in 2016, is the likely target of the Philadelphia spending.

Democrats also plan millions in spending in Miami, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis and Las Vegas, all media markets where Democratic freshman incumbents may be vulnerable to Republican challengers. 

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The DCCC has also plunked down $3 million in early reservations for digital advertising in almost 40 districts across the country, a committee aide tells The Hill. That early spending will allow the committee to pick its ad placement spots long before competitive bidding drives prices up. 

The two parties and their affiliated super PACs tend to make early advertising reservations in a series of waves to lock in prices before they begin to rise. The committees have until just hours before the ads are scheduled to run to pull them, in case a race begins to look safe enough to abandon or too difficult to win.

The DCCC's ad reservations are only its first foray of many into the post-Labor Day market. In 2018, the party's initial ad buys totaled $12.6 million, about two-thirds of this year's buy; the DCCC ended up spending more than $73 million on television that cycle.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has not yet begun purchasing its own fall advertising, though it is likely to do so in the coming weeks.  

The DCCC has an early edge on its Republican rivals. The most recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show the DCCC has $82 million in the bank, compared with $52 million the NRCC has squirreled away. 

The two largest political action committees that back the two parties have already started making their own reservations: The Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC has reserved $43 million in airtime, and the Republican-backing Congressional Leadership Fund has blocked off $51 million for television time.