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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/31/2011

DCCC targets 19 with first media offensive

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza

In the first major media salvo of its effort to reclaim the House in 2012, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching an advertising campaign against 19 targeted Republican incumbents.

The radio ads, web ads, phone calls and e-mails are aimed squarely at Republicans in mostly Democratic-leaning districts. The message is that these members want to cut spending at a time when it could lead to further job losses.

"But Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle supports a plan in Congress that would cut education by 40 percent," says one radio ad. "And her plan would cut science and technology research by 40 percent, too. Research and development is how we get the new products that create new jobs."

The radio ads will begin running Monday and run through the week during drive time.

The targets are Buerkle and 18 of her colleagues: Reps. Lou Barletta (Pa.), Charlie Bass (N.H.), Steve Chabot (Ohio), Chip Cravaack (Minn.), Bob Dold (Ill.), Sean Duffy (Wis.), Blake Farenhold (Texas), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Nan Hayworth (N.Y.), Joe Heck (Nev.), Robert Hurt (Va.), Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.), Pat Meehan (Pa.), Dave Reichert (Wash.), David Rivera (Fla.), Jon Runyan (N.J.), Joe Walsh (Ill.), and Allen West (Fla.).

Almost all of these members come from districts that Obama won in 2008, and the DCCC appears to be doubling down on the president's popularity in those districts. The president has seen his approval ratings increase recently, as optimism about the economy returns.

The media blitz is a part of the DCCC's "Drive for 25" -- the slogan it chose for its attempted return to the majority. If Democrats are to win back the majority, they will need to win many of the 19 districts featured in this media campaign.

Dem firms join together: The Washington-based Democratic consulting firm 4C Partners is merging with the New Jersey-based direct mail company Message & Media.

The merger brings to fruition an alliance created during the 2010 election. 4C Managing Partner Brian Smoot was director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's independent expenditure operation, and Message & Media is closely tied to then-DSCC Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

"By combining our talents and services, 4C/M&M can be a simple solution for hard campaigns," said Smoot, a rising star in the world of campaign operatives. As the DSCC's IE director, Smoot played a key role in keeping the Democratic Senate majority. Prior to that, he was political director at the DCCC when the committee was winning dozens of seats.

Steve DeMicco and Brad Lawrence, the founding partners at M&M, are longtime New Jersey operatives.

Pawlenty says Bachmann would be "a strong candidate": On a trip to Iowa, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty offered some praise for a Minnesota colleague and potential presidential campaign opponent, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R).

"Congresswoman Bachmann is someone I have a cordial and positive relationship with," Pawlenty said, referring to his fellow Minnesotan. "I don't know if she's going to run for president. If she does run, she'll be a strong candidate."

Pawlenty has repeatedly praised another outspoken tea party star -- Sarah Palin -- in the same vein. While both women could end up competing with Pawlenty for the Republican nomination, he's also nudging his way into their spotlight.

Playing nice also helps Pawlenty if Bachmann decides not to run, or drops out of the race. Bachmann is a formidable fundraiser and a popular conservative figure. He could pick up an endorsement that gives his campaign some buzz.

Palin's softer line?: In the wake of the Tucson shootings, Palin stood her ground against critics who argued that her language contributed to a culture of violence. "I am not going to sit down, I'm not going to shut up," she told Fox News at one point.

And yet, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that Palin this weekend had ratcheted back her own rhetoric, telling a hunting and fishing club not her standard "don't retreat, reload," but instead, "don't retreat, stand tall."

It turns out, however, that Palin hasn't retreated at all. One of her aides took to Twitter to adamantly deny that Palin had stopped using the controversial catchphrase.

"Yesterday in Reno Gov. Palin did say her trademark line 'Don't retreat, reload,'" Rebecca Mansour tweeted Sunday evening.

So not only is Palin continuing to use the line; her staffers want to make sure no one thinks otherwise.

Fixbits

Menendez says polling that shows him with a low approval rating is flawed.

Former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) and former state GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis are both exploring bids against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) says he wants Pawlenty to run for president.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-Pa.) likely presidential campaign picked up a couple of consultants in Iowa -- Nick Ryan and Jill Latham of the Concordia Group.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said he's had meetings recently with three fellow governors who are eyeing runs for the White House -- Pawlenty, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels -- along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Must-reads

"Race to Corral Campaign Rainmakers for 2012" -- Neil King Jr. and Brody Mullins, Wall Street Journal

"N.H. Craves 2012 Action as Campaigns Bloom Late" -- Steve Peoples, Roll Call

"The important questions in the 2012 presidential race" -- Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

"Tea Party Gets Early Start on G.O.P. Targets for 2012" -- Kate Zernike, New York Times

"GOP hopefuls lining up to battle Nelson" -- Adam C. Smith, St. Petersburg Times

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza  | January 31, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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