If the GOP’s House majority is in jeopardy, somebody forgot to tell the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The NRCC, the committee charged with keeping Republicans in control of the House, is spending nearly as much on offensive opportunities as on defense so far this cycle. That’s despite Democrats’ predictions that they could take 25 seats from Republicans and regain the majority.
To this point, the NRCC has spent about 39 percent of its money pursuing Democratic-held districts and 47 percent defending Republican-held districts, according to a Fix review of reports from the committee’s independent expenditure arm, which spends nearly all of the money going to individual races.
Democrats, by comparison, are spending very little money on defense and lots on offense. Thus far, they have spent 70 percent of their funds in GOP-held districts and 20 percent defending their own districts.
It was clear from the beginning of this election cycle that the 2012 race would be fought largely on GOP terrain; Republicans took 63 seats from Democrats in 2010 and have their biggest majority in six decades, so most of the traditionally competitive districts are held by a Republican.
But Republicans have played a surprising amount of offense, and that could wind up looking like either a stroke of genius or a huge mistake.
Opportunities created by redistricting and a desire to keep playing offense even in elusive districts has kept the playing field remarkably balanced — at least in the NRCC’s eyes. As of today, the committee has spent money pursuing nearly as many districts (16) as it’s defending (19).
And while it was clear after redistricting that Republicans would have a great chance to take down Reps. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Mark Critz (D-Pa.) and John Barrow (D-Ga.) — all whose districts became much more Republican — the GOP has also spent big money in districts that didn’t shift significantly in their favor and remain tough.
Republicans have spent nearly $700,000 going after Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), more than $900,000 combined against Reps. David Loebsack (D) and Bruce Braley (D) in Iowa, more than $600,000 versus Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), and $639,000 against longtime Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.). They’ve also spent $780,000 pursuing the newly created and Democratic-leaning 4th district in Nevada.
Republicans failed to knock off these candidates in a very good year in 2010, and all of their districts stayed about the same in redistricting. Still, the GOP is pursuing them.
Democrats, meanwhile, have yet to spend any money defending the likes of McNerney, Braley, Loebsack, Chandler and Rahall. In fact, they’ve spent significant funds defending only five of the 16 GOP targets, believing most of them to be safe.
Clearly, there is a difference of opinion over where the playing field lies.
Democrats contend that Republicans could come to rue their offensive investment as money that could have been used to defend vulnerable members who will lose in November.
“Republicans are gambling with their resources that 2012 is 2010 all over again,” said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “And it’s going to cost a bunch of their incumbents their reelection.”
Republicans believe that by expanding the playing field into Democratic-held districts, they can distract Democrats from playing offense and push them into a more defensive crouch.
“Pie in the sky turns to competitive in a matter of weeks in this business, especially when your opponent isn’t playing there,” said NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay.
While the parties differ about which Democratic-held seats are vulnerable, there is great agreement when it comes to the GOP-held seats in play.
In the 19 districts Republicans have spent money to defend, Democrats have either spent money or are soon to launch ads.
And all three districts where Democrats have spent money but Republicans haven’t — Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), Allen West (R-Fla.) and Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) — have to this point featured pretty small Democratic investments. (And in West’s case, he’s got both a huge war chest and a super PAC backing him up.)