Election Day is still five days off, but already Republican strategists are whispering that they outmaneuvered their Democratic counterparts.
The National Republican Congressional Committee and certain other GOP-allied groups adopted a reasonable but risky strategy, which proved effective. Those strategists decided to spend their limited financial resources early and in some not-so-obvious cheap media markets, hoping to put more seats into play and generate momentum for the cycle.
They hoped that buzz about increased GOP opportunities would create more fundraising opportunities, and they bet that increased opportunities would encourage a more aggressive approach by outside Republican-leaning groups, some of which seemed more focused on Senate races.
They have won their bet.
On Oct. 5, Roll Call published a chart showing that through Oct. 2, the NRCC had spent $11.3 million through its independent expenditure on the general election campaigns, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had spent only a little more than $4.1 million through its IE.
At that point, the NRCC had spent more than $300,000 on 16 races, while the DCCC spent that much on just five. The NRCC had spent at least $200,000 in 27 districts, while the DCCC had invested at least $200,000 on just eight races.
Not surprisingly, as of Sept. 30, the NRCC had $19 million in the bank, while the DCCC had $41.6 million on hand.
Obviously, the GOPs early advertising strategy showed up in individual races.
On Aug. 9, an outside, pro-GOP group, Americans for Prosperity, ran a stunning 1,200 points against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who was not regarded then as among Republicans top 40 targets. The NRCC hit the airwaves on Sept. 6, and the 60 Plus Association went up with TV ads a few days later.
In Kentuckys 6th district, challenger Andy Barr went on the air in August, while the NRCC went up with an ad Sept. 12. Rep. Ben Chandler (D) didnt seem at all vulnerable at that point, but the NRCC gambled that it could make the contest competitive and force the DCCC to spend on the race.
Early NRCC buys against Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre in North Carolinas 7th district (beginning Sept. 17), Ike Skelton in Missouris 4th district (on Sept. 24), Rick Boucher in Virginias 9th district (on Sept. 17), Jim Marshall in Georgias 8th district (Sept. 24) and Kathy Dahlkemper in Pennsylvanias 3rd district (Sept. 17) also sought to soften up incumbents in relatively inexpensive media markets.
Republicans proudly point to their commitment to the Skelton district. They concede that two weeks of TV ads in the district didnt do much to move the veteran Democrats numbers, but note with pride that subsequent ads caused Skeltons poll numbers to fall like a rock.
Republican strategists argue that Democratic incumbents should have annihilated GOP challengers early, taking the contests off the table and limiting the size of the Congressional playing field.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.