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John Boehner pledges $50 million fall ad campaign

By Paul Kane and Chris Cillizza
CLEVELAND -- House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that he wants to stockpile $50 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee's independent campaign for the November midterm elections.

Boehner's goal is the most ambitious public disclosure of how much Republicans hope to spend in the fall, a sign of increased optimism among House GOPers that their finances are following the momentum they feel among the electorate heading into the fall.

"We hope to have $50 million available for our candidates," Boehner said during a 35-minute media roundtable after his economic address before the City Club of Cleveland. "That's the number I've been shooting for for some time, but we've got a long way to go.

"We have closed the gap considerably on the money front, with the Democrats, and we're going to continue to work to close that gap," he told reporters.

At the end of July, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee showed $36 million on hand, compared with $22 million in the bank for the NRCC. The DCCC has already reserved ad time in 60 districts with a total cost of $48 million.

While senior GOP sources cautioned that Boehner's $50 million projection was on the high side, they seemed confident that they will be able to get into that range by election day.

Here's how.

* The NRCC has already indicated their intent to spend $22 million on ads in 41 districts -- the first of several major ad buys, according to sources familiar with the committee.

* Given their current fundraising trajectory -- they have outraised the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in each of the last four months and have raised more money than any of the federal campaign operations so far this year -- there is a belief that the NRCC can collect $12 million more before the election.

* Historically, the NRCC has taken out lines of credits and/or loans totaling somewhere between $6 and $8 million at the end of each election. With the majority clearly in play, it's safe to assume that the borrowing will be on the high end of that spectrum and could even go higher if GOP strategists believe it could make the difference in winning the majority.

Add those numbers up and you get to $42 million in cash to fund campaign ads this fall. To get to Boehner's ambitious fundraising totals, two things likely need to happen: an exponential growth in small and large dollar donors to the NRCC as contributors try to bet on the side that looks like a winner and a significant increase in transfers from the personal campaign committees of House Republicans for that same reason.

Regardless of where the NRCC gets to in terms of fundraising, the committee is certain to eclipse the $24 million it spent on independent expenditure ads in 2008.

House Republicans are also hoping to get help from several outside organizations -- including American Crossroads and the American Action Network -- that are pointed toward the November elections. To date, however, those groups have largely spent their dollars on Senate contests.

Boehner is at the tail end of a whirlwind August that has taken him, mostly by bus through the Midwest, to campaign stops for more than 20 Republican candidates. All of the candidates except for Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) are challenging Democratic incumbents or are running for open seats, predominantly in the Midwest. He has also done his part to aid the NRCC's fundraising effort -- gathering and transferring more than $8 million to the committee this cycle.

He publicly articulated Tuesday what many of his political advisers have been saying for months, that the campaign is going to be overwhelmingly focused on the negative contrast of how Obama and congressional Democrats have handled the economy. "Eighty or 90 percent of this election is going to be about them," he said.

By Chris Cillizza  | August 24, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  House  
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