Spending: After weeks of holding back on TV advertisements because of its meager budget, the NRCC finally unloaded over the past two days, buying more than $4 million worth of ads in a total of 20 districts. And some of these buys are quite large - perhaps unexpectedly so.
Over the past two days, the NRCC spent more than $400,000 in two red district (MN-03 and WA-08), $300,000 or more in CO-04, MI-07, NH-01 and PA-11, more than $200,000 in MO-09, NY-26, NY-29, OH-02 and OH-15, more than $100,000 in LA-06, MO-06, NJ-03, NJ-07, OH-01, PA-03 and WI-08 and less than $100,000 in AL-02 and AL-05. (Alabama media markets are inexpensive, so the NRCC’s spending those two districts is substantial.)
To this list should also be added districts in which the NRCC bought ad time at the end of last week, so that they will not have to invest more money to stay on air for a few more days. Those include: FL-21, ID-01, VA-02. Furthermore, Politico reports that the NRCC has just made expenditures it has not yet reported (and will likely do so by tonight) in three more districts, KY-02, IN-03 and NE-02 - three very conservative districts, the latter two of which were not expected to be competitive as of a month ago.
This spending offers a fascinating window into the GOP’s view of which blue seats are competitive and which red states are salvageable or deserve defending. Some omissions of vulnerable red seats continue to be glaring, particularly FL-24, NM-01, NC-08, NV-03, OH-16. That the NRCC is spending so much money helping Rep. Walberg in MI-07 while investing nothing in Rep. Knollenberg’s MI-09 is telling of the latter’s vulnerabilities. However, there are some surprises in the list.
The first is MN-03, the heated open seat in which the GOP has just poured in a huge amount of money: a week ago, the NRCC was reported to be moving out of the district and allocating that budget to MN-06 (Bachmann’s seat) instead. Clearly, the NRCC has since then decided that the district is still winnable. Similarly, Reps. Musgrave and Kuhl in CO-04 and NY-29 look to be trailing, so it is curious that the NRCC has decided to invest some of its limited expenditures into saving them. The calculation is surely that it is always easier to pull incumbents through rather than salvage open seats or help challengers.
Meanwhile, the DCCC posted far less expenditures yesterday than it usually does on Tuesday, including a strange omission of a number of seats in which it has been on air for weeks (the New Mexico, Ohio and New Jersey open seats, for instance). That suggests that there are still DCCC expenditures to come today, which will up the Democrats’ total (they have, after all, a lot of money to spend), but a few investments are very noteworthy.
The ease with which the DCCC invests amounts which appear prodigious when spent by the NRCC tells us all we need to know about the parties’ financial disparity. The DCCC just poured in a stunning $566K in IL-10. This is an extensive district to spend in because of the Chicago media market, certainly, but it is certainly a large buy - especially considering that Rep. Kirk appears to be gaining in recent polls. The committee spend more than $400,000 in NC-08, bringing its total investment in that district to nearly $2 million (the NRCC has spent nothing). The new spending is more than $300,000 in AZ-01, AZ-03, CO-04, MD-01 and almost reaches $200,000 in AL-02 (as I said, that is a lot of money to spend in an Alabama media market).
Given that nearly everyone has long expected AZ-01 to be among the easiest pick-ups for Democrats, it is somewhat bizarre that the DCCC is pouring that much money in the district, but that is their only defensive-looking move (if that can be said about a red district). Apart from that, the overall picture is as remarkable as last week: The NRCC is building a firewall in second-to-third tier seats while the DCCC is spending heavily on seats it should not even be thinking about: more than $700,000 of Democratic money spent in one day in AZ-03 and MD-01?! Who would have thought that would be possible just four weeks ago?
Alaska: Ted Stevens’s trial enters its final stage today, as the case will be handed to the jury which will start its deliberations. The always-useful Anchorage Daily News provides an overview of yesterday’s closing arguments - and through them a recap of what has happened in the trial over the past month. While Stevens’s defense made some important gains over the past month - in particular getting the judge to throw out some evidence - the trial’s last few days were not kind to the Alaska Senator. The government’s chief attorney got Stevens to lose his temper at times during his cross-examination, and she ridiculed his claim that a chair that had been in his house for seven years was a “loan” rather than “a gift.”
As soon as the jury returns, we shall have a much better idea of the dynamics of the race, as it is looking more likely every day that the trial’s verdict will also decide Stevens’ electoral fate. A new just-released Ivan Moore poll confirms that Stevens has closed the gap and that the race is now a dead heat; an acquittal would be likely to boost Stevens on top, while a guilty verdict would make it difficult for him to pull through. But what happens if the jury only partially acquits Stevens? He is, after all, being tried on seven different charges, so a guilty verdict might not be as damning as the prosecution would want it to be.