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Democrats Seek to Turn Republican Debate Pain Into Their Gain

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the commercial time between jabs at Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate, viewers watching in the Southern Maryland and Washington, D.C., media market will hear from a familiar Democrat.  

Kathleen Matthews, the former television anchor turned Democratic candidate to replace Rep. Chris Van Hollen as he runs for Senate, purchased ad time on Fox News and other cable networks for an ad she hopes will contrast herself and other Democrats with the mammoth GOP field.  

“Watching the Republicans run for president makes me proud to be a Democrat, because our party stands up for working women, good wages, upward mobility, better health care — including the choices we have a right to make,” Matthews says to the camera in the ad. “As the Republican debate shows, their policies undermine the middle class and divide America.”  

Matthews' play in the 8th District comes as Democrats across the country have encouraged their supporters to tune in on Thursday evening – a call led by the Democrat the Republicans are hoping to replace.  

"I'm calling on you to tune in, listen carefully to what the Republican candidates for president say, and then hold them accountable for trying to undo all of the hard work we've done to move this country forward," President Barack Obama wrote in an email to supporters. "I can't overstate what an important difference you can make by doing this."  

In 16 states from Maryland to Missouri, and Oklahoma to Alaska — Democrats have scheduled 32 debate-watch parties.  

"These events will engage and mobilize supporters early in the campaign cycle," said Holly Shulman, a spokeswoman for the DNC.  

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will be on the ground in Ohio to work the local media and push back on the GOP message, while staffers in Washington will manage a war room focused on its national message.  

While Democrats like Matthews are hoping to capitalize on the Republican Party's big night, those backing Republican candidates will not be sitting the night out.  

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, for example, is using Snapchat to geo-target people in Missouri with a negative ad about Democratic Senate candidate Jason Kander . Nationally, that ad will be joined by one from the Republican National Committee.  

“The RNC is focused on providing voters with a platform to join the conversation both during and after the debate, reaching and engaging voters where they are," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said. "Our ad will be there to engage voters as they consume the content live on their television and on the Snapchat Live Story throughout the evening.”  

Related: Who's Running for President? The 2016 Field

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