House and Senate Republicans kicked off October with several aggressive independent expenditure moves aimed at putting Democrats further on the defensive with just weeks to go before Election Day.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is expected to go on the air this week in Washington state, where it has about $3.5 million committed over the next month.
The total is an increase from its initial reservation and indicates the committee still sees Senate Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray as vulnerable, despite a string of decent polling for the incumbent against Republican Dino Rossi.
On the House side, the National Republican Congressional Committee dropped $5.3 million on more than two dozen new ads in districts around the country over the weekend. The NRCC is now on the air in 45 districts, which is more than the 39 seats that Republicans need to pick up to take back the House this fall.
The NRCC has shelled out at least a quarter-million dollars in 22 districts, bringing its total IE general election spending to just more than $11.3 million. That number represents about 45 percent of the $25.6 million that the NRCC had on hand on Aug. 31.
The NRCC certainly raised a large amount in September, as demonstrated by the $4.4 million in commitments that the committee received from Members last week. But it has clearly committed to a strategy of spending money early and often to put as many seats in play as possible.
Committee insiders say they expect to be on the air in 55 districts in the near future.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee continues to hold back on spending its larger bank roll.
The committee had spent about $4.1 million on independent expenditures in 29 districts as of Oct. 1, according to the latest report available from the Federal Election Commission. That total represents about 11 percent of the $39 million that the DCCC had on hand on Aug. 31.
The decision by the DCCC has forced well-funded candidates to use their own resources to respond to the NRCC’s September and early October attacks.
Targeted Democrats such as Reps. Tom Perriello (Va.), Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.) and Allen Boyd (Fla.), who each stockpiled million-dollar-plus war chests this cycle, took the cue and spent heavily during September.
The DCCC has aided some notoriously weak fundraisers who hold battleground districts. Rep. Larry Kissell (N.C.) has received about $389,000 in help from the DCCC, which is more money than the Congressman had in the bank as of his most recent FEC report.
Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.) is another weak fundraiser who has earned some air cover from the DCCC. The fact that Democrats have spent $66,000 so far to boost Bishop is not a good omen for Democrats in general because his southwest Georgia district wasn’t even expected to be a serious GOP target as recently as this summer.
While Democratic incumbents around the country continue to wait for the DCCC to unload its vast financial reserves, the committee has shown a willingness to play in several open seats. It has made two of its biggest investments so far in Michigan’s 1st district and Wisconsin’s 7th district. The DCCC has already aired ads in four other open seats that are currently held by Democrats as well as a pair of Republican-held open seats in Florida and Illinois.
But as interesting as it is to look at who has received help from the committee, it’s sometimes more telling to look at who hasn’t received help.
The DCCC has yet to lift a finger to help some of its most vulnerable incumbents, including Reps. Chet Edwards (Texas) and Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.). The NRCC has already spent $205,000 against Edwards and $359,000 against Kirkpatrick.
The DCCC has all but raised the white flag in several Democratic open-seat races, including New York’s 29th district, Arkansas’ 2nd district, Louisiana’s 3rd district and Tennessee’s 6th district.
On the Senate side, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was forced to spend about $500,000 on advertising in Connecticut to assist Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Once the heavy favorite, recent polling indicates his opponent, former World Wrestling Executive Linda McMahon, is gaining traction after spending vast sums of her own personal wealth.
The moves illustrate the fluidity of committee spending as the races and overall landscape continue to take shape. Long seen as out of reach, Connecticut has emerged as a battleground for the parties. The same thing happened earlier this year in Washington, another Democratic-leaning state.
The NRSC also continues to be up this week in Colorado and West Virginia, while nearly $2 million in coordinated funds was used for an ad that went up Sunday in the Los Angeles market for Republican Carly Fiorina.
Its coordinated funds are also being used for ads in Alaska for Joe Miller, New Hampshire for Kelly Ayotte and Illinois for Rep. Mark Kirk. The NRSC also still has time reserved in three Republican-held open seats in Florida, Kentucky and Missouri.
The DSCC has now spent more than $10 million this cycle on independent expenditures, according to figures compiled from the FEC and the Sunlight Foundation. Along with Connecticut, the DSCC has spent in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. All of the states except Missouri are currently held by a Democrat.