That could be the case in New Jersey’s 3rd district, where the NRCC laid down just $95,000 for cable buys against Rep. John Adler (D). Adler’s district straddles the incredibly expensive New York and Philadelphia media markets. Republicans could also benefit from outside help in their efforts to defend Illinois’ 10th district, which lies in the expensive Chicago media market. The NRCC has spent just $149,000 on ads in the open-seat race so far.
As the NRCC has employed its resources trying to expand the map, the DCCC has held its fire. Democrats plan to wait until the last minute to deploy their resources in the hopes of overwhelming Republicans at a time when voters will be paying the most attention.
That strategy has left targeted Democratic candidates mostly on their own to get through September.
While committee officials have said they expect to spend $48 million in 60 races by Election Day, the DCCC reported spending a total of just $1.5 million through its IE in 13 districts as of Saturday.
One Republican media consultant said the DCCC’s decision to hold its fire in September has been surprising and represents a tacit acknowledgement that the top targeted races of the cycle are already lost.
The strategist said the DCCC appears to have already given up on retaining the majority and is trying to hold its losses at about 45 seats.
“They are playing in so few places at such a critical stage in the race that it’s beginning to look like their goal is to find a select number of seats and to just overwhelm them with money in the last few weeks to prevent this from being an abject disaster,” the consultant said.
The media consultant acknowledged that in some races, the DCCC will have more money to spend during the final three weeks of the campaign than the NRCC and conservative third-party groups combined.
But “in many of those places the ‘votes 95 percent with Nancy Pelosi’ [label] will already be tattooed on the heads of the Democratic incumbents. Will more money matter?” the consultant said.
DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider dismissed that reading of the committee’s IE strategy.
“In Republicans’ rush to pop the Champagne corks, they forgot a critically important thing: Not a single ballot had been cast. Democrats are running an aggressive campaign to win the House, and we will succeed,” Crider said.
The toughest part of the next phase of the IE game for the DCCC will be making the decisions about which campaigns to cut off financially. It’s a process the DCCC started in September as several campaigns in places such as Arizona, Indiana and Pennsylvania saw reductions in the original ad reservations the committee laid down in July.
Republicans will surely pounce on the first incumbent victim of a complete DCCC financial pullout. But committee officials also say they’d be happy to see the reservation reduction process continue for a few more weeks.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., walks on Broadway after a Future Forum with young entrepreneurs in the Flatiron District of New York City, April 16, 2015. Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., also attended.