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Parties Look for Wave Surprises

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Reps. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) and Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) both won their seats by less than 1 point in 2008 and both began the cycle as top targets. Yet one Republican strategist admitted Wednesday that it’s conceivable that one or both may hang on next week.

Perriello is benefitting from a flood of outside spending that Republicans have been unable to match. Perriello is also getting a visit from Obama on Friday in Charlottesville, a move that campaign strategists said will do more good than harm just days before the elections.

Kratovil is expected to benefit from the upballot gubernatorial race where Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is favored.

Other possible surprise Democratic victories mentioned by Republican insiders include Reps. Harry Mitchell (Ariz.), Michael Arcuri (N.Y.) and state Sen. Julie Lassa in Wisconsin’s open 7th district seat.

Still, the bigger story coming out of election night will be how successful Republicans were in their effort to capitalize on what has been a huge House playing field.

GOP strategist Chris Perkins said that in some ways Republicans have been more focused on expanding the playing field than reinforcing their top priority races, but that strategy has been successful in forcing Democrats to pull out of several high-profile tossup districts and in turning long shots and bluffs into real opportunities.

The NRCC will “start a fire, and the question is do the Democrats come in and put it out. If they don’t put it out, it can manifest into a true pickup opportunity.”

Perkins argued that’s what happened in recent weeks to 10-term Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), who is now in a serious race against state Rep. Steven Palazzo (R).

Taylor, who suddenly found himself the target of NRCC attacks in mid-October, has since seen more than $300,000 in NRCC funds pour into his district. The DCCC has yet to spend a dime through its IE in the district.

Brodnitz acknowledged Wednesday that a major challenge for Democrats in the final weeks of the campaign has been to determine which Republican moves were “sneak attacks” against truly vulnerable incumbents and which moves were simply “throwing names out to get us to spread our money out.”

This late in the game, it’s probably unrealistic to expect the field to expand any more, Perkins said.

“There aren’t any more complete and total sleepers,” he said.

But one GOP source with knowledge of the NRCC ad buy strategy said Wednesday that the expansion process may not be over just yet.

“If we get more money, we’ll be adding points this weekend to other races,” the source said. “And if the election were two weeks from now, we would have kept spreading fires because the money would have kept coming in.”

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