House GOP campaign arm books $52M in fall TV ads

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House Republicans’ campaign arm is laying down its first round of fall TV ad reservations, a $52.3 million investment that sketches out a path back to the majority in 2023.

The bulk of the buy, which is spread across more than two dozen media markets, is targeting Democratic-held seats — a signal that a favorable political environment has created a plethora of pickup opportunities for the GOP. This is the first of several TV ad bookings to come for the National Republican Congressional Committee, but it is more than twice as much as the group’s initial reservation in the 2020 cycle, according to plans shared first with POLITICO.

“House Republicans are on offense throughout the country because Democrat policies have left American families worse off,” Kelly Gosselin, who directs the NRCC’s independent expenditures, said in a statement. “We’re going to make sure every vulnerable Democrat is held accountable for the record price increases, soaring crime and crisis on our southern border their policies have created.”

The reservations span more than 20 districts and reveal many of the committee’s top targets. Large sums are allocated for defeating Democrats in districts that former President Donald Trump carried in 2020, including $1 million in Des Moines for Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa); $3.62 million spread across three markets for Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine); $960,000 in Toledo against Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio); $2.75 million in Wilkes-Barre for Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.); and nearly $2.2 in two markets to flip retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind’s open seat in southwest Wisconsin.

The committee also reserved a whopping $7.3 million across the Lansing, Detroit and Flint markets for Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and to aid Republican recruit John James in his bid to flip an open seat. Other big buys: $2.6 million in Minneapolis to oppose Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) and $1.25 million on New York City cable for Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.).

President Joe Biden’s sinking approval ratings ahead of his first midterm, which is historically tough for the party in power, have given Republicans great optimism for the fall. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the main House GOP super PAC, already booked some $125 million in fall advertising, with most of their spending also directed at offensive targets.

GOP strategists believe that the current environment has put seats Biden carried by high single digit margins — and even low double-digit margins — firmly in play. The NRCC’s initial round of buys prioritizes flexibility, so the committee can easily shift a reservation between highly competitive districts and harder-to-win districts that fall in the same market.

For example, the NRCC’s $2.6 million reservation in the Phoenix market could be used to protect GOP Rep. David Schweikert (Ariz.) and target Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran (Ariz.), who finds himself in a deep-red seat after redistricting. But if one or both of those incumbents require less spending, the NRCC could redirect the money against Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton (Ariz.), who represents a seat Biden carried by 11 points.

The committee also booked nearly $2.2 million in Raleigh, N.C. to boost Republican Bo Hines in an open swing seat there, but it could also allocate some of that toward retiring Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s open district on the state’s eastern coast. In Philadelphia, the $3.3 million buy is chiefly targeting Democratic Rep. Susan Wild, but could also be used to protect GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick or go after Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, whose New Jersey district falls partially in that media market. Biden would have carried his seat by 15 points after redistricting.

And in the Boston market, the NRCC booked almost $3.5 million that could be used to put pressure on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas as well as Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster.

Republicans have also demonstrated their commitment to flipping seats in South Texas, a region that has long supported Democrats but appears to be shifting right. The NRCC booked nearly $3 million combined in the Harlingen and San Antonio markets that could be used for the three seats in the Rio Grande Valley.

Party strategists said only a half dozen or so of their market reservations are earmarked for defense, such as in California’s Central Valley for Rep. David Valadao; in Omaha for Rep. Don Bacon; in southern New Mexico for Rep. Yvette Herrell; in Cincinnati for Rep. Steve Chabot; and in Philadelphia for Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. A large $2.2 million Los Angeles buy could also be used to protect Reps. Mike Garcia, Young Kim and Michelle Steel.

But nearly all of those markets (except for Bacon and Chabot) offer flexibility to shift. The buys could easily be reallocated toward offensive opportunities should those incumbents find themselves in a strong position in the fall.

Some of the Los Angeles buy could be redirected toward targeting Democratic Rep. Katie Porter. And operatives believe they might use some of the Central Valley reservation to target the open 13th District where GOP farmer John Duarte is running. (Biden carried both seats by nearly a dozen points.) And a $1.82 million buy in New Mexico markets could be used to target Democratic incumbents there.

Democrats are also preparing for a largely defensive effort.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee placed its initial TV ad buys last week, reserving $21.4 million of airtime in markets that are expected to be among the most crowded and expensive in the fall. The committee booked in many of the same markets as its GOP counterpart but also in Las Vegas, where Democrats may have to defend three incumbents; and in the Georgia markets that fall in the district of Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop.

“DCCC is taking early action to ensure House Democrats have the most effective tools available to reach our voters,” DCCC Executive Director Tim Persico said in a statement.

The NRCC initial round of buys also focused on some markets that will receive a high volume of ads thanks to Senate and governor races, such as Phoenix and Philadelphia. Reserving early will lock in low rates there.

Both committees left a slew of key markets off their first set of reservations that they will likely include in later rounds. And both will rely on outside groups to help them cover more districts.

The NRCC works in tandem with the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC closely aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

In some markets, such as Philadelphia, Detroit and Phoenix, both groups have booked large sums of air time. But the NRCC has not yet made buys in other markets where CLF has invested, such as Denver, Las Vegas, Virginia Beach and in northwest Illinois where Republicans are eyeing the open seat held by retiring Rep. Cheri Bustos.

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