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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 TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden Florida heat sends a dozen Trump rally attendees to hospital Harris more often the target of online misinformation than Pence: report 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 McSallyTrump fights for battleground Arizona Pence seeks to lift GOP in battle for Senate Activists project 'Trump failed us' onto Arizona mountain 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 FinkenauerTrump looms over Ernst's tough reelection fight in Iowa Democrats lead in 3 of 4 Iowa House races: poll Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote MORE (D), Cindy AxneCindy AxneTrump looms over Ernst's tough reelection fight in Iowa Democrats lead in 3 of 4 Iowa House races: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, first lady in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 MORE (D) and Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingDemocrats lead in 3 of 4 Iowa House races: poll Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it 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 ErnstErnst holds narrow lead over Democratic challenger in Iowa: poll Biden, Cunningham hold narrow leads in North Carolina: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Election night could be a bit messy 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 PoliquinBallot measures across US aim to overhaul voting practices Dale Crafts wins Maine GOP primary to face Rep. Jared Golden House Democrats make initial ad buys in battleground states 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 CartwrightThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats break fundraising records in Senate races Races heat up for House leadership posts Trump Jr. seeks to elect 'new blood' to Republican Party MORE (D) represents the Scranton area. Rep. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryHouse Republicans ask Amtrak CEO for information on Biden's train trips Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it MORE (R) holds the Harrisburg-based district. And Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickLawmakers urge IRS to get stimulus payments to domestic violence survivors Hopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum MORE (R), one of the few Republicans who holds a district Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden Harris more often the target of online misinformation than Pence: report The Hill's Campaign Report: What the latest polling says about the presidential race | Supreme Court shoots down GOP attempt to block NC mail ballot extension 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.