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Roll Call

NRCC Takes Turn With Small Ad Buy Targeting Earned Media

In what the GOP is describing as a “new ad offensive,” the National Republican Congressional Committee is on television in upstate New York today with a 30-second spot that accuses Rep. Bill Owens (D) of voting for “another Pelosi budget.”

But the buy is tiny by normal standards, according to a Democratic operative who tracks media spending. Specifically, this week the NRCC has reserved 40 gross rating points on cable in the Syracuse market at a cost of $2,800 and another 30 gross rating points on cable in the Watertown market totaling $1,750.

The ad, set to run for three weeks, is the latest example of debt-laden campaign committees on both sides using relatively minuscule investments to leverage earned media coverage early in the cycle.

The New York buy, for example, may reach just a handful of voters in New York’s 23rd district, but it earned a leading place in Politico’s morning email campaign tip sheet, which did not report the size of the buy and reaches many political reporters and operatives in Washington, D.C.

The NRCC and its allies earlier in the month mocked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for a radio ad campaign across 25 districts that totaled less than $6,000.

“At what point does a campaign committee blush when launching a ‘paid advertising campaign?’” Jonathan Collegio, spokesman for the outside conservative group American Crossroads, said at the time.

The DCCC supplemented its small investment with targeted phone calls to various districts. That’s exactly the same thing that Republicans are doing in Owens’ district and 23 others.

The NRCC announced a separate radio buy earlier in the week targeting Rep. Mike Ross (D) in Arkansas’ 4th district for refusing “to vote for the budget proposals to cut spending or reduce the deficit” — a reference to his opposition to House Republican budget plans that would completely reshape Medicare.

The NRCC convinced a local paper to write a story about the radio buy but refused at the time to disclose the size of the investment. The Democratic strategist confirmed for Roll Call that it totaled $2,550 for one week.

Neither campaign committee formally confirms or comments on the cost of its own advertising or that of its opponents. But the game will continue until later in the cycle, when more voters are paying attention and after the campaign committees have retired their debt.

At the end of March, both the NRCC and the DCCC reported debt of $8 million.

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