WASHINGTON — House Democrats are setting aside more than $7 million for television advertising to help endangered incumbents, a sign that the party's final march toward November's midterms likely will be spent on defense, according to a plan obtained by The Associated Press.
Ad strategies show the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reserving time in media markets represented by incumbents who are top Republican targets. The plan, which describes the final month of campaign planning, shows the DCCC already focused on about 20 contests that political operatives in both parties say are the most competitive.
Democrats have set aside almost a half million dollars for ads to help Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin remain South Dakota's sole representative in the House during the final two weeks before the election. Democrats also appear willing to spend $617,000 to help Reps. Tom Perriello and Glenn Nye in Virginia during their final three weeks of campaigning. Pennsylvania, home to several contested House races, could see almost $1.3 million in DCCC ads during the last month before the election.
In all, the first wave of Democratic air time reserved would cost the committee $7.7 million.
Democrats face a tough political climate this year amid voter frustration with President Barack Obama and the Democratic agenda. Polls show a drop in support for the party, with economic woes and job losses taking a toll. A strong anti-establishment sentiment is expected to boost Republicans.
Democrats control 255 seats in the House, with 178 Republicans and two vacancies. The GOP needs to gain 40 seats to capture control.
The DCCC has a 2-to-1 edge over Republicans in campaign cash. Fundraising reports released Tuesday show the Democrats with $34 million banked, and the National Republican Congressional Committee with $17 million in cash on hand.
Reserving the ad time doesn't require the party to go ahead with the ads. Political campaigns from both parties typically reserve the air time well before they need it. But the 26 media markets discussed in the advertising plan — from Spokane, Wash., to Burlington, Vt. — are all defensive and underscore Democratic recognition of the challenge the party faces to retain the majority.
The ad plan also telegraphed to Republican candidates that those races would be costly for them. While some individual GOP candidates have outraised their Democratic foes, they cannot rely on national Republicans to counter with party-created ads and many have spent at a far faster pace than the Democrats.