Dems' Ad Moves Signal House Battle Is Heating Up
The battle for control of the House is a regular topic here on The Fix, with posts laying out the seats in play, the fundraising numbers for party committees and candidates and the strategic jockeying on both sides. But our coverage for the past nine months has been low-key compared to what it will be in the final four months of campaign 2006.
The first sign that we're nearing election primetime is word received here that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has begun reserving television time in districts across the country. The details of the committee's buying is only starting to seep out now, but we know that ad time has been reserved in Florida's 22nd District, where state Sen. Ron Klein (D) is challenging Rep. Clay Shaw (R).
The DCCC is also booking TV time in Arizona's 8th District, where Rep. Jim Kolbe's (R) retirement has set off a competitive race. By next week we should have a better sense of the entirety of the DCCC ad buys, which will provide us a window into the committee's target list heading toward the 2006 midterms. The National Republican Congressional Committee has not yet placed national ad buys and likely will not do so before next month.
Reserving time does not equal buying time. Party committees traditionally reserve more time in more places than they wind up using -- they pay television stations for the advertising the week before it is scheduled to run and then only on a week-to-week basis. That means that if a race becomes less competitive in the final two weeks, the DCCC can cancel its reserved time there and move its ad dollars elsewhere. No financial penalty is incurred by cancelling time, but it can lead other stations in other media markets to demand they be paid up front for the entirety of the ad buy, which is within their legal right but rarely done. (I wrote about this biennial winnowing process for Roll Call during the 2004 cycle; the link is subscription-only.)
Currently, the only race where both committees are running ads is in Indiana's 8th District, where Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D) is taking on Rep. John Hostettler (R). The DCCC is also up with a radio ad in New Mexico's 1st District, where Rep. Heather Wilson (R) is being challenged by state Attorney General Patricia Madrid (D).
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