With sequestration taking effect at the end of last week, which triggered an automatic $85 billion reduction in FY 2013 spending increases, a quartet of America’s largest labor unions responded by forming a coordinated effort to fire the 2014 election campaign’s first salvo.
The unions, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the National Education Association (NEA), financed television ads in a “six-figure buy” against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and six Republican House members who will likely face competitive re-election campaigns next year.
Obviously, a small “six-figure” buy divided among seven individuals in targeted cable markets in March of the off-year means very little in the scope of cementing a negative image against their targets, but it does provide us a glimpse into where the unions and Democratic Party organizations will likely be investing major independent expenditure dollars during the campaign’s prime time.
The particular cookie-cutter commercial against Sen. McConnell won’t affect his re-election status because the ad targeting him is airing in Washington, DC, not his home state of Kentucky. In fact, no Blue Grass State media market was even identified on the buy list.
The ad text mentions what the unions term as “reckless automatic cuts” that will inflict “pain for millions” and “devastate our troops, first responders, students, educators, families, seniors, and could destroy one million American jobs … just to protect tax loopholes for corporations and the richest few.”
The Republican House members on the receiving end of the union effort that did include buys covering at least parts of their districts are: Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA-10; re-election percentage 53), Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31; 55 percent against a Republican in the general election), Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10; 52 percent), Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-3; 52 percent), Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI-1; 48 percent) and Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH-7; 57 percent). Interestingly, the Republican recording the lowest national election percentage, freshman Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) at 47 percent, was not included in this first media attack wave.
On the other hand, adding Rep. Gibbs to the list is interesting. Scoring a 57 percent re-elect figure and representing a district where GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won with almost 54 percent of the vote does not immediately translate into being an early target. This could be an indication, however, that former Rep. John Boccieri (D-OH-16), who lost his seat to Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) in 2010 after only one term and is now considering a 2014 election challenge to Gibbs, is serious about running. Including OH-7 in this first attack wave could be transmitting a subtle signal that a Boccieri candidacy would be well received by outside liberal organizations.
The six House members targeted in this first attack wave are now, ironically, in better position to finance and initiate a counter-offensive, since first blood has already been drawn. Expect to see much more from these regions in the coming months.