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The National Republican Congressional Committee began running its second and third television attack ads of the cycle this weekend, even as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee insists that it’s the one focused on offense.
The latest NRCC push — humble buys that began Saturday intended to keep pressure on two vulnerable Democrats — target Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.) and Rep. Nick Rahall, the West Virginia delegation’s only remaining House Democrat.
The ads targeting Rahall link the Democrat to the nation’s rising gas prices.
“President Obama is putting the squeeze on West Virginia — pushing policies that raise gas prices. And Nick Rahall is helping him do it,” the narrator says in a copy of the video obtained by Roll Call. “Rahall says he could support higher gas taxes. And Rahall voted with environmental radicals to support Obama’s moratorium on offshore drilling.”
It remains to be seen whether the messaging will work or whether the Democrats will try to use the same issue to target Republicans who control the House.
Rising gas prices are largely the result of the rash of violence in oil-producing countries such as Libya. But the issue is one that hits many middle-class voters in the pocketbook. By spending on television early, the NRCC has an opportunity to define Rahall heading into the 2012 elections.
But the buys are modest. The NRCC refused to release the cost of the ads, but a Democratic strategist tracking the buys reported the NRCC is spending less than $15,000 on a combination of broadcast and cable television in North Carolina’s 11th district alone. Shuler won re-election there in November with just more than 54 percent of the vote.
The Shuler attack is focused more generally on the Blue Dog Democrat’s recent record on spending.
“Online, Shuler brags about his plan to ‘eliminate wasteful spending’ ... and ‘reduce the deficit.’ But that’s not how Heath Shuler voted,” the narrator says in the spot. “Shuler voted for the Obama-Pelosi budget that had massive deficits. Shuler voted against cutting $61 billion from this year’s spending. So don’t look at what Heath Shuler says, look at his votes.”
The spots will run through the first week of April. The cable buys are focused exclusively on Fox News, according to the Democratic consultant.
“It’s a tiny buy — purely a vanity buy,” the consultant said. “If they couldn’t get Heath in 2010, good luck to them spending $10,000 or $15,000 in March of 2011.”
Last month, the NRCC bought its first TV ads against Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah).
The DCCC, with nearly twice the NRCC’s debt, hasn’t yet purchased TV ads but targeted more than 50 Republicans with a phone, Web ad and e-mail campaign.
Watch the videos below: