Conservative Coalition Launching $ 50 Million Pre-Election Ad Blitz

A group of conservative activists is planning a last minute ad blitz that could help put several Republican challengers over the top.

A coalition of conservative groups nominally guided by Karl Rove is embarking on one of the biggest independent ad expenditures in American history as we approach the final two weeks of the 2010 elections:

An alliance of Republican groups is launching a $50 million advertising blitz this week in a final push to help the GOP win a majority in the House, representing the biggest spending blitz ever by such groups in a congressional election campaign.

The coordinated effort, which the groups have dubbed the “House surge strategy,” tops what the official Republican House election committee expects to spend on television ads for the entire contest. It is aimed at the few dozen competitive races where Democratic candidates have significantly more money in the bank than their Republican opponents, eating into one of the Democrats’ last financial advantages.

Democratic candidates, notably incumbents, have raised more cash than many of their Republican rivals in this year’s most competitive House races, according to a Wall Street Journal tally of Federal Election Commission data. In the 40 races deemed toss-ups by the Cook Political Report, a political handicapper, Democratic candidates had a combined $39.3 million of cash on hand as of June 30, the most-recent filing deadline. Republican candidates had $16.5 million in the bank.

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“Conventional wisdom was that Democrats would have a sizable financial advantage in the 2010 elections—that will not be the case,” said Rob Collins, president of the American Action Network.

The spending campaign underscores a phenomenon that emerged with force in the 2010 elections: Outside political groups, most of which don’t have to disclose their donors, are rivaling the traditional dominance of political parties’ official campaign committees. Many of these groups, including those launching the ad blitz, are less than a year old.

“The scales have tipped from the political party to the outside political organizations,” said former Rep. Bill Paxon of New York, who once led the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s House campaign arm.

Evan Tracey, head of Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks campaign-ad spending, called the combination of ad outlays by the groups “historic” in its size, an assessment echoed by other campaign-finance experts and officials.

One of the districts where the group will be spending money is New York’s 22nd Congressional District, which I noted last week was looking like it could be an upset. In that district, the group’s efforts will essentially wipe out the cash-on-hand advantage that nine-term incumbent Maurice Hinchey had at the end of the last reporting period:

Quietly this week, in the background, nonprofit political organization American Crossroads decided to spend $300,000.

“Maurice Hinchey is in a vulnerable position,” said Jonathan Collegio, communications director for American Crossroads. “He hasn’t had a competitive race in years, his fundraising has atrophied. So there’s an opportunity to turn something that was off the radar into a very competitive race.”

The $300,000 will fund a week of television advertisements beginning Friday, Collegio said. More money could be channeled after that, depending on the dynamic of the race, he said. Collegio said he was unsure what messages would be portrayed in the ads.00,000 during a seven-day span for anti-Democratic ads on the race.

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Federal election records show as of Aug. 25, Hinchey had $267,106 cash on hand, while Phillips had $34,727.

The outside spending effectively offsets the incumbents cash advantage in this district, and, combined with the news yesterday that former New York Mayor Ed Koch was crossing party lines and endorsing George Phillips, the Republican challenger to Hinchey, could be just what’s needed to give a long-term incumbent more of a run for his money than he’s ever had before.

One of the under-reported stories of the election cycle has been the fact that Democratic incumbents were maintaining somewhat of a fund raising advantage over Republicans. Groups like American Crossroads stand poised to make that advantage largely irrelevant in the crucial final weeks of the campaign.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    We know that you approve of the idea that secretly funded advocacy organizations can buy elections Doug but high expenditure doesn’t automatically buy a result you know. McMahon has spent around 50 million and Whitman 120 million, but they are hardly surging. There’s also the law of diminishing returns. Most of these races have been the subject of massive advertising campaigns for weeks in which the evil doings of both candidates have been endlessly rehearsed by their opponents. Absent amazing new revelations and provided the Democrats can maintain a reasonably effective presence on the air waves its probably not going to make that big a difference to the basic dynamics of races. Although I will accept that some races get decided on the margins. It won’t be advertising that will settle the outcome of most of these races but how efficiently the parties turn out their vote.

  2. Brummagem Joe says:
  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    Another thought that occurs is that OTT ads can be counter productive as has happened with McMahon I think. I live in the state. Everyone knows Blumenthal. They may not think he’s Mr Warm and Fuzzy but not even GOP’ers think he has horns and a tail.

  4. Spending a lot of money doesn’t guarantee victory. Just ask President Giuliani.

    Nonetheless, properly targeted, spending like this can influence races that are on the edge, but where incumbents have fundraising advantages over challengers.

    Will it work? Ask me on November 3rd. I’m not expressing an opinion, just passing along an interesting story.

  5. Brett says:

    $50 million in television ads? This is why I wish we could ban televised political ads in the months leading up to national elections. Aside from driving the costs of campaigns upward (particularly if the candidate is competing in an expensive media market), tv ads are so one-way. At least with rallies, signs, etc, there usually has to be some two-way interaction between candidate campaign and potential voter.

  6. Brett,

    This is why I wish we could ban televised political ads in the months leading up to national elections.

    Reminds me of another phrase…..

    Congress shall make no law respecting the freedom of speech….

    Comments like yours make me glad those words still mean something

  7. Brett says:

    Comments like yours make me glad those words still mean something

    Yeah, because banning spamming of the airwaves with expensive political advertisements in a limited period of time would be such a peril to the Republican. Never mind that we already allow restrictions on campaign finance, and the like.

  8. Brett says:

    EDIT: “The Republic”.

  9. ponce says:

    I live in a state with a toss-up Senate race.

    Just about every available news broadcast and prime time show commercial slot is filled with this wingnut ad barrage.

    Bottom Line: Money doesn’t buy persuasion, the ads are comically bad.

    They come off as fringe right rants that could only appeal to the crackpots already voting for their guy (lots of shouting about issues only wingnuts know about…borderline truther stuff).

    One currently in heavy rotation even manages to make their opponent look far better than any of her ads have managed to do.

  10. ratufa says:

    “They come off as fringe right rants that could only appeal to the crackpots already voting for their guy”

    In general (and I haven’t seen the commercials you’re referring to, so I could be off base in this case) I’m a bit skeptical that someone who is entirely outside of the intended audience for these commercials is able to accurately evaluate their effectiveness. An ad barrage like this might have the effect of motivating people who are sympathic to those arguments to get out and vote and it might persuade politically apathetic people who don’t know the issues.

  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    “An ad barrage like this might have the effect of motivating people who are sympathic to those arguments to get out and vote”

    This I’m sure is the purpose, to reinforce the prejudices of your base and persuade them to get up and vote. The problem is it’s crude and perhaps ignores the first law of physics that every action produces a reaction and it could therefore energize your opponents supporters to vote.

  12. ponce says:

    “An ad barrage like this might have the effect of motivating people who are sympathic to those arguments to get out and vote and it might persuade politically apathetic people who don’t know the issues.”

    You may be right, but there are so many political ads airing here that whoever has the controller instantly mutes the TV during commercial breaks now even if an ad might be something we agree with.

    Is there such a thing as political ad burnout?