The Real Races

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 10, 2016 — Last week, we concentrated on how the major party committees and principal outside organizations are spending their advertising money, and what their dollar commitments mean in terms of forecasting wins and losses.

The expenditures, backed with plausible polling, reveal those candidates the party strategists regard as contenders who can actually win or incumbents in need of substantial assistance. The spending charts also clearly identify the Republican members and candidates that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) leadership is willing to sacrifice in order to support their internal leadership preferences.

The Daily Kos Elections website staff members have constructed a chart to track the media spending of the two major US House support committees, the NRCC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and a key outside organization specifically supporting individual Democratic and Republican candidates. Daily Kos is tracking the House Majority Fund on the Democratic side and the Congressional Leadership Fund for the Republicans.

With House polls now beginning to flood the political media often with conflicting results, the spending charts allow us to better analyze the races where both parties are spending heavily, thus creating a more reliable toss-up category.

The top individual races where all tracked entities are within sight of the $10 million mark in combined spending include FL-26, featuring Rep. Carlos Curbelo-R, Miami) and ex-Rep. Joe Garcia-D). All the D and R entities combine to put forth just over $10.7 million, which breaks down about evenly between the two sides.

The PA-8 open seat race (Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick-R, retiring) is between Republican Brian Fitzpatrick, the exiting congressman’s brother, and Democratic state Rep. Steve Santarsiero-D. The combined media total is $9.6 million, with the GOP side spending about $400,000 more.

Other races attracting major spending are CO-6, where incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman-R, Aurora, and state Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll-D are battling for a district that will decidedly support Hillary Clinton in the presidential campaign. Total spending here exceeds $9.4 million.

The campaigns receiving ads totaling in the $8 million realm, where both sides are spending in an equivalent fashion, include VA-10 (Rep. Barbara Comstock-R, McLean vs. LuAnn Bennett-D) and TX-23, the re-match contest between Rep. Will Hurd-R, San Antonio and former Rep. Pete Gallego-D.

Others at or over the $5 million mark in combined spending are ME-2 (Rep. Bruce Poliquin-R vs. Emily Cain-D) where Republicans are investing over $1 million more than the Democratic figure; IL-10, the re-match between Rep. Bob Dold-R, Kenilworth, and ex-Rep. Brad Schneider-D, where $6.2 million is committed with the GOP side spending $800,000 more; and MN-8, where $6 million is being spent and Democrats are clearly worried about Rep. Rick Nolan’s-D, Crosby/Duluth) prospects in a re-match against businessman Stewart Mills-R. The Dem side commitment is $1.3 million more than Republicans.

Others out of balance include NH-1, where Republicans are spending in excess of $2 million more than Democrats in an attempt to save embattled Rep. Frank Guinta-R, Manchester; the open NY-19 (John Faso-R vs. Zephyr Teachout-D) where Republicans are committing $2.8 million compared to the Democrats’ $231,000; and the open FL-18 (Brian Mast-R vs. Randy Perkins-D) where Republicans post media expenditures of $4.4 million compared to Democrats’ $950,000. In this latter case, Mr. Perkins is a self-funder, which could explain such a major spending discrepancy for what appears to be a toss-up race in a politically marginal district.

Democrats are spending much more in FL-7 ($3.8 million to $8,000) supporting college professor Stephanie Murphy’s-D challenge to Rep. John Mica-R, Winter Park), and CO-3 ($2.17 million to $92,000) backing former state legislator Gail Schwartz’s bid against three-term Rep. Scott Tipton-R, Cortez/Western Slope. Expect Republicans and their allies to soon counter these latter media buys.

Internally, the Republican Party House committee arm and the one tracked outside organization are literally spending $0 to support Rep. Scott Garrett-R (NJ-5), who is in serious danger of losing his seat to Democrat Josh Gottheimer. By contrast, the Dems have already committed $1.8 million. Garrett refused to pay his NRCC dues in the 2014 cycle because of the Committee’s support for gay candidates.

Despite an even poll being reported last week in FL-13, and Democrats just committing over $1 million to prop up former Gov. Charlie Crist, the NRCC and allies are spending no money to support Rep. David Jolly-R, Pinellas County. The committee personnel and the congressman have been engaged in a messy public feud virtually from the time of his original special election victory in early 2014.

Based upon late developments, expect Republican spending to quickly increase in CA-10 (Rep. Jeff Denham-R vs. Michael Eggman-D), where Democrats just made a $791,000 media investment, and CA-49 where Rep. Darrell Issa-R, Vista, has fallen behind challenger Doug Applegate-D according to two polls.

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