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Democrats Target Rep. Ryun in Kansas's 2nd District

In an ongoing attempts to expand the House playing field, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee yesterday launched its first ads of the campaign in Kansas's 2nd District.

The commercial hits Republican Rep. Jim Ryun for voting against a $1,500 combat bonus for U.S. troops while votiing himself two "huge" pay raises. (The DCCC is using this same line of attack against several other marginally vulnerable GOP incumbents, including Rep. Melissa Hart in Pennsylvania's 4th District.)

The ad's narrator goes on to call Democratic nominee Nancy Boyda "a better choice" who is "honest and independent."

The DCCC's decision to play in the 2nd District comes amid a slew of district-by-district polling that suggests a number of previously safe GOP incumbents are now ripe for the picking. Ryun joins a list that includes Rep. Cathy McMorris in Washington's 5th District and Rep. Ron Lewis (R) in Kentucky's 2nd.

There is a strong likelihood that none of these three (or any of the other longshot targets for the DCCC) lawmakers will wind up losing. But with so much late money pouring in and surveys showing the possibility of an upset, Democratic strategists are trying to make sure they maximize opportunity everywhere.

Ryun has been an on again, off again target for Democrats since coming to Congress in 1996. Boyda raised more than $1 million in the 2004 race but fell well short -- losing 56 percent to 41 percent. President George W. Bush carried the eastern Kansas district with 59 percent of the vote in 2004, a five-point improvement from his victory there four years earlier.

Democrats have long believed that Ryun, who remains well-known in the state for his record time running the mile in high school, is too conservative for the district. But voters seem to regularly disagree.

Why then would the DCCC go into the district at this late date? Our guess is that Democrats saw a poll that showed Ryun in less healthy shape than they expected and decided to take a gamble. Because advertising is so cheap in this district, it's a no-brainer for the committee to sponsor a week's worth of advertising -- taking a gamble that one of the longshot districts where the party has recently waded into will pay off on Nov. 7.

(Watch the DCCC ad running in Kansas.)

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 28, 2006; 5:32 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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