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A liberal phone company is asking customers to overpay their bills to support its new super PAC and is using the money to wage a ground war against 10 tea-party-aligned House conservatives.
While other super PACs pour millions of dollars into attack and issue ads, Credo Mobile's super PAC is eschewing the media war in favor of retail campaigning.
It's investing in field offices and a staff of 30 full-time employees who manage thousands of volunteers - a strategy that could be particularly effective in the tight races where unaffiliated and party committees as well as social welfare nonprofits are blanketing the airwaves.
Voters in the Sacramento, Calif., suburbs, for example, are in the cross hairs of a relentless political media barrage thanks to tight California State Senate and Assembly races, a series of contentious ballot measures and two highly competitive Congressional contests, including four-term Republican Rep. Dan Lungren's re-election bid. Lungren, who previously served five terms, is one of Credo's targets.
"We are reaching a real saturation point on television, and for any outside group to understand that and invest in ground game is probably a wise move," said Dave Gilliard, a Republican consultant who is advising the re-election campaign of Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) in the neighboring 10th district. "The problem with this group is that their public messaging is very far to the left."
Lungren is locked in a tight race with his 2010 opponent, Democratic physician Ami Bera, in California's redrawn 7th district. Roll Call rates the race as a Tossup.
Credo's strategy and its anti-tea-party message is well-suited for the new map, which loops in more Democratic voters while cutting out Republicans in the rural eastern part of the district, with easy-to-walk suburbs and a high concentration of what Gilliard described as "casual voters."
Jeff Wyly, a spokesman for Lungren's campaign, dismissed Credo's activities as irrelevant in a district with an almost equal number of registered Democrats and Republicans.
"They are organizing their base liberals," he said. They are not reaching out to independents."
But he acknowledged that is exactly what Bera needs. "If you look at the primary results, Bera definitely has a base problem, a Democrat problem," he said.
The group is focusing on a list of 33,000 people who voted in 2008 but not in 2010 and "are modeled as 65 percent or better to vote Democratic" this year, a spokeswoman said in an email.
The National Republican Congressional Committee and other GOP-aligned outside groups, including American Action Network, recently launched another round of advertising in defense of several of the lawmakers whom Credo has dubbed the "Tea Party Ten," including Reps. Sean Duffy (Wis.), Steve King (Iowa), Chip Cravaack (Minn.) and Jim Renacci in Ohio's newly drawn 16th district.