“We’ve had some really good quarters. I am committed to running a winning campaign,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), which had $2.4 million in the bank at the end of March and aired in late June. “Anyone who comes to us, they are going to fight. I don’t believe in being shy.
So far, nine Democratic incumbents in potential swing seats have aired some 14 TV ads, according to data from AdImpact, a media tracking firm. The messages range from positive spots about the work members are doing to lower the gas tax and defund the police, a strategy deployed by the reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) and Marcy Captur (D-Ohio), at first knocks on their GOP opponents, a tactic adopted by Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa).
A few candidates aired around the time they were targeted by American Action Network, an outside GOP group running ads blaming Democrats for the cost hike. Collectively, the nine Democratic incumbents booked about $3.4 million in ad time between mid-June and the end of July, according to AdImpact.
“Obviously TV time is cheaper now. It gives them a chance to continue bragging about the work they’ve done,” said Rep. Friend Bera (D-Calif.), who runs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline program for incumbents at risk. “It allows you to get your message across in an uncrowded market,” he said of the early spend.
At this point in the 2020 cycle, only three vulnerable Democrats had launched major ad campaigns: Reps. Max Rose (DN.Y.), Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) and Joe Cunningham (DS.C.), according to AdImpact. . They all lost this November – demonstrating the limits of early TV spending as a tool to mitigate an unfavorable political environment.
Kildee’s spots highlight his work with “Republicans and Democrats” to bring down drug prices, cap insulin prices and open up new markets for local farmers. In one ad, he took direct aim at an outside GOP group that ran its own ad blaming Democrats for inflated federal spending.
He is one of four swing-seat Democrats who ran ahead of their summer primaries, even though they face little opposition within the party. The others: Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Kim Schrier (D-wash.) and David Throne (D-Md.).
Slotkin, Schrier and Kildee all used their spots to tout their bipartisanship and independence. In a Lansing-based swivel seat, Slotkin noted his time working on national security issues under the direction of presidents from different parties. In suburban Seattle, Schrier bragged about taking on the “Biden administration” over a gas tax holiday in her ad. She faces several GOP opponents in a multiparty primary on Aug. 2 and has booked nearly $3.4 million in airtime from mid-June through November.
“It’s really not a particularly expensive TV ad market where I live,” said Cartwright, who runs a spot about falling gas prices in his northeast Pennsylvania district. “I did a professional job raising funds to defend the siege.”
In 2018, Democratic candidates raised huge sums of money that allowed them to financially trail — or, in many cases, surpass — the GOP incumbents in those districts. Now that they’re in power, that money ain’t slowed down, although some of their Republican challengers are beginning to catch up.
Applicants begin reporting their Q2 fundraiser by the July 15 deadline. Democrats continue to announce impressive numbers. Schrier raised $1.7 million, Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) has raised over $1.1 million and Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) raised $1.8 million.
The three women are already airing television commercials. Schrier and Lee published ads following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, emphasizing their commitment to access to abortion.
Lee decided to focus on abortion because she said her opponent, April Becker, hasn’t been open about her stance on the issue.
“Voters need to understand where a woman is running for Congress,” she said, “especially because we already see Republicans are close to putting a national abortion ban on the record. if they get a majority.”
Luria, meanwhile, the only vulnerable House Democrat on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attacks, released a one-minute ad highlighting her commitment to defending American democracy.
“People might say, ‘Well, why would you do that? You might not get re-elected,” Luria says in footage from the spot. “I don’t care because I did the right thing.”
Other members have also adopted very specific messages in their advertisements. Kaptur, who was placed in a fiercely competitive seat in Toledo during Ohio’s redistricting, accuses her opponent, JR Majewski, of breaching the police barricade during the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol.
Axne also turned negative, accusing State Senator Zach Nunn, her Republican challenger, of sponsoring “legislation to loosen amusement park safety rules.”
However, the Democrats will not have the airwaves for them for long. Even as they elevate their GOP candidates, Republican super PACs plan to make up the difference.
Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican group closely aligned with the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyannounced on Thursday that it had raised $43.5 million in the second quarter and finished with $130.4 million in the bank, nearly $60 million more than it had ever had at this stage of a electoral cycle.
“This is a significant down payment on what is needed to win a new Republican majority and put an end to the disastrous policies of the Biden administration,” CLF Chairman Dan Conston said in a statement.