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“The DCCC sees there’s an opportunity to define him early and hopefully put this race away early so you don’t have national Republicans coming in at the end to make this competitive,” as they did in New York, said Weigler, who now works for the public affairs firm Strategies 360.
The Sunlight Foundation estimated $1.4 million in outside spending in the New York race, with all but $101,000 supporting the Democrat’s candidacy. But outside groups flooded Nevada with ads opposing the Democratic candidate, with $1.6 million in spending from the NRCC, American Crossroads and other outside groups.
Jim Ross, a California-based Democratic consultant who works regularly in Oregon, said the party could be looking beyond the January contest. The district got slightly less Democratic in redistricting, which will go into effect for the regularly scheduled 2012 elections.
“I also think they are doing it in hopes of making this election decisive so they don’t have to worry about it as much in November,” Ross said. “If that is the case, then it is money well-spent.”
Republicans with knowledge of the district are curious about the DCCC’s decision and note that it stayed Democratic even in strong election cycles for the GOP in 1994 and 2010. The 1st, which stretches from downtown Portland to the coast, has been in Democratic hands since 1974.
Republican Molly Bordonaro, a former ambassador to Malta, knows how tough the district is after losing to Wu by just 3 points in 1998, but she believes Cornilles is a Republican who could break through.
“Rob Cornilles is an outstanding candidate, who has a great business background and a solid grasp of the issues,” Bordonaro said. “He’s going to run a fantastic race, and I think he’s the type of candidate that the people in Oregon want representing them in Washington, D.C. So it’s going to be an extremely competitive race that Rob can win.”
Cornilles’ first ad following the primary left out his party ID, part of his strategy for appealing across party lines. The DCCC is hoping to shatter that image with a television ad that went up last week. It features a clip of Cornilles saying on the campaign trail last year that he was the “original tea party candidate.” Cornilles is now campaigning as a moderate businessman.
Ballots will be mailed to voters between Jan. 13 and 17, and ballots are due Jan. 31.