WASHINGTON — Democrats expanded their plan for the final four weeks of television advertising during the fall election campaign and reserved another $20 million in air time to defend endangered incumbent lawmakers.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee so far has reserved air time in media markets that cover 40 of its closest campaigns, according to the advertising plans reviewed Thursday. The reservations indicate Democrats would be in position to defend some of their most vulnerable — and powerful — incumbents, such as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri and Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt of South Carolina.
The Democrats plan to defend some of those who rode to office in 2008 with the help of first-time voters turning out to support then-Sen. Barack Obama's presidential bid. Reps. John Boccieri and Steve Driehaus of Ohio, Rep. Suzanne Kosmas of Florida and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona are all freshmen lawmakers who started their jobs as top GOP targets.
The advertising is concentrated on states whose economies have been particularly damaged during the economic crisis. The plan would help preserve seats in Ohio, including that of Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, who won her seat in 2008 after a long recount and is heading toward a tight rematch against Republican Steve Stivers. Four districts in Pennsylvania are set to receive DCCC help, as are three each in Virginia and Arizona.
The ads are not all for lock step Democrats, either. Democrats have set aside almost a half-million dollars for the final two weeks before election day for ads to help Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin remain South Dakota's sole representative in the House. The first ad of her potentially dicey re-election bid highlighted her opposition to Obama's signature health care overhaul.
Similarly, Rep. Chet Edwards, seeking an 11th term representing Texas, also voted against the Democrats' health care overhaul. The Democrats have reserved ad time in his Waco-area district. Reps. Bob Bright of Alabama and Zack Space of Ohio also voted against the health bill but are receiving DCCC aid.
Democrats face a tough political climate this year amid voter frustration with 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 showed the Democrats with $34 million banked, and the National Republican Congressional Committee with $17 million in cash on hand.
But the 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. Although 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. The committee set aside more than $7 million in ad reservations Wednesday and another $20 million Thursday.
The Thursday ad reservations were first reported on The New York Times' website.