DCCC Says Its Cash Key in Several Races

Posted November 5, 2008 at 6:58pm

Pending the final call of about half a dozen races, House Democrats appear to have picked up a net gain of 20 seats in Tuesday’s elections.

While few would argue that double-digit losses for one party is a positive outcome, the final total is considerably lower than many estimates heading into Election Day, given the GOP’s poor national environment and potential coattails of President-elect Obama’s resounding victory.

And that’s not to mention the massive financial advantage that Democrats enjoyed over their GOP counterparts. The National Republican Congressional Committee began the cycle swimming in debt left over from trying to salvage seats on their way to losing the majority in 2006.

Final independent expenditure spending totals for the House campaign committees show that Democrats outspent Republicans by roughly $50 million on the battlefield of competitive races.

In total, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent more than $77 million on 65 races while the NRCC invested $25 million across 37 districts.

The DCCC spent more than $1 million in each of 38 races, and won 24 of them. The committee spent more than $2 million in 12 of those contests and was victorious in eight. That number could grow to nine depending on what happens in Ohio’s 15th district, which still had not been called as of press time.

House Democrats spent more than $2 million in each of their efforts to defeat Reps. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), as well as to try to win an open seat in suburban Minneapolis, but to no avail.

Of the DCCC’s $77 million in IEs, about $15 million went toward defending Democratic-held seats.

Four Democratic incumbents went down to defeat Tuesday: Reps. Nancy Boyda (Kan.), Don Cazayoux (La.), Nick Lampson (Texas) and Tim Mahoney (Fla.). Boyda, Mahoney and Lampson were all elected in 2006 (although Lampson had served previously in the House) and Cazayoux won a special election earlier this year.

The DCCC spent a total of $3.8 million on the four contests.

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) on Wednesday defended the party’s spending strategy. He said the committee is in the process of analyzing their its operations and performance in other key areas, but he said he doesn’t believe that concentrating more resources on fewer races would have produced a bigger gain.

“If you look at the races we won, in each case the resources that we put into them are what got them over the top,” Van Hollen said. “And in those races that we did not win, it’s not at all clear that additional resources made a difference. We lost some races and we put a lot of resources in. I think that if you look at the analysis here and our list of targeted races, all of the facts coming in so far show that we very efficiently applied our resources.”

The NRCC topped the $1 million mark in only five contests this cycle, winning at least two and possibly three of them depending on the outcome of Rep. Dave Reichert’s (R-Wash.) contest. The NRCC’s spending was largely focused on playing defense. Of the 37 districts where their IE was involved, 26 of them were held by Republicans. The NRCC won 15 of the 37 races where they played.

The Republicans’ IE spent the most trying to boost Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who won re-election to another term. The NRCC also spent a combined $2.4 million to try to save Reps. Tim Walberg (Mich.) and Steve Chabot (Ohio), both of whom lost, and shelled out nearly $900,000 for Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (Colo.), who lost in a landslide.

The DCCC invested heavily in the re- election of freshman Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.). It poured more money into her rematch with former Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) than any other race in the country.

The Democrats also won their second- and third-highest spending contests, ousting GOP Reps. Robin Hayes (N.C.) and Jon Porter (Nev.).

Van Hollen said he had little or no regrets about the spending decisions for the cycle.

“So far this year — and you know maybe I’ll eat my words as the returns come in — there’s not a race where we can turn around and say, ‘Well, if we’d only been there,’” he said. “We try and avoid that situation.”

John McArdle contributed to this report.