House Democrats are ready to empty their deep pockets for television ads in their uphill climb to overtake Republicans as the majority party. Both sides' Senate campaigns also started placing ad reservations with an eye on November.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday began asking television stations in 36 districts to set aside broadcast and cable advertising time for the fall's campaign blitz.
The House spending comes to almost $44 million in advertising requests, or $1.2 million per race. That's the largest ever from the committee and the biggest so far this election year from a party-run campaign committee.
Separately, Senate Democrats' campaign machine booked more than $9 million in three states for fall ads. And Senate Republicans' political committee also put down $2.1 million for ads in Colorado starting in September.
The Associated Press obtained race-by-race budgets from party officials who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss spending plans by name.
The level of detail in the House spending plan telegraphs which races the Democrats plan to spend money on, and when. The party committee cannot coordinate with allies at super political action committees, but operatives can point to public sources such as news stories to ensure outside groups are not missing races or wasting money on redundant ads.
But the tactic comes with a risk. Republicans can now see when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plans to be on the air, and in which markets.
For instance, the committee plans to spend $2.8 million on broadcast and cable ads in the Washington, D.C., media market between Oct. 21 and Nov. 4.
Rep. Frank Wolf, a 17-term Republican, is retiring and Democrats plan to compete in his Northern Virginia district, which is home to Washington surbubs.
In all, the campaign committee plans to spend money in 19 districts to defend incumbent Democrats, mostly newcomers, and in 17 districts that are in Republican hands.
That is a shift from 2010, the last nonpresidential campaign year. Then, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reserved $28 million in advertising time to defend 39 Democratic-held seats and to challenge just one GOP-controlled seat.
The spending figures reflect the significant fundraising advantage Democrats have built over Republicans. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ended April with $43.5 million in the bank and is set to spend that same sum on ads, starting in August.
The big spending still might not be enough to tip the balance of power. House Republicans have 233 seats and Democrats have 199 seats. There are three vacancies.
Redrawn congressional districts after the 2010 census heavily favored Republicans. Coupled with that, the party that holds the White House historically has lost seats in elections at this point in a president's term.
Republicans' House campaign arm dismissed the ad reservations.
"This is a $43.5 million sign of desperation and the clearest indication yet of the uphill climb Democrats face in defending Obamacare and their job destroying policies that are wreaking havoc on our economy," said National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek.
But Democrats' campaign machine is not backing down and consistently has outraised its Republican rival. The DCCC has raised almost $107 million this election cycle while the National Republican Congressional Committee has raised almost $68 million and began May with $32 million in the bank.
To defend endangered incumbents, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plans $4.7 million to help Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, $3.6 million to help Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and $1 million to help Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, meanwhile, booked $2.1 million in ads to help Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who has emerged as a strong challenger to Udall.
The ad reservations can be modified should individual races become less competitive. But by booking the time so early, the party committee locks in a lower price and a discount of as much as 35 percent.