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Democrats buy $43.5 million worth of TV time, mostly to defend threatened seats

Putting their money where their fears are
Putting their money where their fears are
Courtesy Bright Orange Advertising by permission

The Democratic Campaign Committee outraised its Republican counterpart by $11 million in April, ending the month with $43.3 million cash on hand. According to a May 30 Roll Call report, it looks like they'll need every penny. That's because they're spending noticeably less on advertising time to gain Congressional seats than to keep from losing them.

Of the $43.5 million worth of air time they've reserved to run on broadcast and cable from August through October, only $8.335 million is to oust sitting Republicans and another $8.735 million to try for open seats (though in some Michigan and Pennsylvania markets with multiple Congressional districts, they're using the air time to do both). But they'll be spending more than both combined – $20.26 million – to protect Democratic incumbents from losing their seats. Looking at these efforts in terms of geography instead of cash, Roll Call notes, "The money is split across 36 districts, including 17 pickup opportunities, according to a DCCC aide." What's surprising about the split is how much of the defensive ad spending is going to places like California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, and the city of Miami, Florida – and even New York City (against a Republican incumbent under indictment for federal crimes, no less) – all of which were once considered safe Democratic strongholds.

Here's a breakdown of how much ad time they'll be buying, where and why.

Open Seats – $8.735 million

  • Arkansas 2nd District – $625,000 on Little Rock broadcast October 21 through Election Day. Incumbent Republican Tim Griffin is running for lieutenant governor.
  • Iowa 3rd District – $1.3 million on Des Moines broadcast September 5 through October 20. Republican Rep. Tom Latham is retiring.
  • Michigan 8th District – Congressman Mike Rodgers is retiring from that district, which will be sharing in $290,000 Lansing broadcast and $850,000 Detroit broadcast buys to run October 21 through November 4. That's a lot of money to spend in just 15 days, but, even with Detroit's massive population flight, it's still a big television market.
  • New Jersey 3rd District – $650,000 on Philadelphia cable and $640,000 on New York cable August 12 through November 4. In view of the wasted New York and Pennsylvania audience, this seems like a strange and inefficient buy. New Jersey may not have its own broadcast television station, but it does have 38 cable systems serving 2,859,751 subscribers in 565 municipalities.
  • New York 21st District – $480,000 on Albany broadcast and cable, $140,000 on Watertown broadcast and $200,000 on Burlington (VT)-Plattsburgh (NY) broadcast October 21 through November 4 to replace retiring Democrat Bill Owens with another member of his party.
  • Pennsylvania 6th District – Another overlapping buy, this one shared with Pennsylvania's 8th. Part of $1.9 million on Philadelphia broadcast from October 21 to November 4 will be devoted to the district that Republican Jim Gerlach is retiring from.
  • Virginia 10th District – $2.8 million on Washington, DC, broadcast (Again, why not northern Virginia cable?) for the seat Republican Frank Wolf's retirement will vacate.

Targets of Opportunity – $8.335 million

  • California 10th District – $1.1 million on Sacramento broadcast, October 21 through November 4
  • California 21st District – $1 million on Bakersfield and Fresno English- and Spanish-language broadcast, September 9 through 22
  • Colorado 6th District – $1.4 million on Denver broadcast from October 21 through November 4
  • Florida 2nd District – $400,000 on Tallahassee broadcast and cable, October 24 through November 4
  • Iowa 4th District – $440,000 on Des Moines broadcast plus $230,000 on Sioux City broadcast, October 21 through November 4
  • Illinois 13th District – $670,000 on Champaign (IL) broadcast and cable September 30 through October 20, followed by $940,000 on St. Louis (MO) broadcast October 21 through November 4
  • Michigan 1st District – Two flights on Traverse City broadcast – $450,000 worth September 2 through 22 and another $490,000 October 14 through November 4
  • Michigan 7th and 11th Districts – This overlapping buy, which also includes the open-seat 8th, involves $290,000 worth of air time on Lansing broadcast and $850,000 on Detroit broadcast, both October 21 through November 4.
  • New York 11th District – $950,000 on New York cable August 12 through October 13 to unseat a Republican recently indicted for tax fraud and other federal offenses. Is almost $1 million to oust him overkill?
  • New York 23rd District – $300,000 on Buffalo broadcast and $165,000 on Elmira broadcast and cable, October 21 to November 4
  • Pennsylvania 6th District – $1.9 million on Philadelphia broadcast October 21 to November 4 will be shared with the open-seat 8th. The ads will also reach thousands of southern New Jersey and northern Delaware voters, who couldn't care less.

Saving the Vulnerable – $20.26 million

  • Arizona 1st District – $2.2 million on Phoenix broadcast and cable September 2 through October 6 to defend vulnerable incumbent Ann Kirkpatrick
  • Arizona 2nd District – $700,000 on Tucson broadcast and cable October 14 to November 4 in defense of Ron Barber, whom Roll Call identified as one of the ten most vulnerable House incumbents.
  • Arizona 9th District – $1.3 million on Phoenix broadcast and cable October 21 to November 4 to protect Krysten Sinema';s threatened seat
  • California 7th District – Two flights to protect incumbent Ami Bera – $$500,000 September 9 to October 20 on Sacramento cable, followed by an even million on cable and broadcast October 21 to November 4
  • California 26th District – $950,000 on Los Angeles cable September 23 to November 4 to defend Julia Brownley
  • California 52nd District – $1.4 million on San Diego broadcast and cable September 19 to October 13 to defend another of Roll Call's ten most vulnerable Congress members, Scott Peters
  • Connecticut 5th District – $670,000 on Hartford broadcast and cable October 24 to Election Day, backed up by $90,000 on New York cable starting September 23 to defend Elizabeth Esty. Someone must think that lots of Connecticut commuters watch cable television at work.
  • Florida 26th District – $970,000 on Miami Spanish-language broadcast October 21 to November 4 to defend Joe Garcia, whose main legislative accomplishments were his CSPAN and YouTube appearances picking his ear and eating it and saying, "We've proven that Communism works."
  • Illinois 10th District – $800,000 on Chicago broadcast and cable for all of six days – October 21 to 27 – to defend Brad Schneider
  • Illinois 12th District – Two flights on St. Louis broadcast (see previous comments about waste audience) – $940,000 worth of air time September 12-29, followed by another $940,000 buy October 21-November 4 – to defend Bill Enyart
  • Massachusetts 6th District – $965,000 on Boston/Manchester (NH) broadcast October 28 to November 4, backed up by $460,000 worth of Boston/Manchester cable October 7 to Election Day, to defend John F. Tierney
  • Minnesota 7th District – $1.5 million on Minneapolis-St. Paul broadcast and cable October 14 to November 4 to save Collin Peterson's seat
  • Minnesota 8th District – $1.1 million on Minneapolis-St. Paul broadcast and cable October 7-20 to defend Rick Nolan. With less than two weeks of television advertising, his seta must be safer than his colleague's the next district over.
  • New Hampshire 1st and 2nd Districts – As a small state that's part of the Boston media market, New Hampshire's a very inefficient place to buy television. But the DCCC is defending both the state's Congressional seats October 7-20 with $1.7 million on Boston-Manchester broadcast and $200,000 on Boston-Manchester cable (where it will probably reach more Massachusetts than New Hampshire voters) and $650,000 on Manchester station WMUR-TV.
  • New York 1st District – $1.4 million on New York City cable September 9 to October 20 in defense of incumbent Timothy Bishop
  • Texas 23rd District – $940,000 on San Antonio broadcastSeptember 23-October 13 to defend Pete Gallego
  • West Virginia 3rd District – Nick Rahall II is another of Roll Call's ten most vulnerable members of Congress. The DCCC is buying $300,000 worth of time on Bluefield-Beckley broadcast and $435,000 on Charleston-Huntington broadcast September 2-22, followed by an October 21-November 4 flight, for which they'll spend another $200,000 on Bluefield-Beckley and $290,000 on Charleston-Huntington.

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