The cash-flush Congressional Leadership Fund is adding millions more to its fall advertising strategy, putting it on track for the ambitious goal of raising and spending $100 million to keep Republicans in control of the House of Representatives. As of this week, the CLF, which is aligned with retiring House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, will have reserved $60 million in advertising — $50 million in TV, $10 million in digital — across 33 districts.
At the same time, the new ad reservations demonstrate how the midterms are being fought on Republican turf. The new buy includes California’s 39th District, New Jersey’s 7th District and New York’s 19th District. The California seat, which backed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign by 8.6 points, pits a former Republican state legislator against a Democratic recruit who can self-fund his campaign; the New Jersey and New York seats are held by Reps. Leonard Lance and John Faso, who opposed Ryan’s signature achievement, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
In an interview, CLF President Corry Bliss said last Tuesday’s primaries had seen “encouraging” levels of Republican turnout, and the New Jersey and New York seats fit into “our mission, which is holding on to the House.” In New York, the super PAC was particularly encouraged by a scrambled left-wing field, which will include the eventual Democratic nominee, a Working Families Party nominee, a Green Party nominee and potentially a “Law and Order” star who is petitioning her way onto the ballot as an independent.
“That’s going to make it easier for John Faso to hold that seat,” Bliss said.
Democrats, however, got their own jolt of confidence from last week’s contests. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which had poured millions into three southern California races (including the 39th district, where Young Kim will be the GOP nominee) found itself competing with the CLF, which had directed $1.5 million into a super PAC that ran pro-Republican ads. Both efforts were designed to get candidates into the November runoff, and to avoid the sort of “lockouts” that can result from California’s system.
“After much self-promotion and premature congratulations, the Congressional Leadership Fund failed to box Democrats out of any district in California, and their investments are becoming increasingly cautious, defensive and ineffective,” said Meredith Kelly, the DCCC’s communications director. “It’s unsurprising that Paul D. Ryan’s super PAC would swoop in to try and protect weak Republicans like John Faso, Leonard Lance and Young Kim, but clearly CLF doesn’t pack much of a punch.”
Meanwhile, the CLF has beaten the DCCC into one of the year’s final special elections — an Aug. 7 contest in Ohio’s 12th District, to replace a Republican who retired after the tax bill’s passage. The CLF has bought $250,000 of ads on behalf of state Sen. Troy Balderson, who narrowly won the GOP’s nomination. One ad highlights Balderson’s work on anti-opioid policy; one, hitting a more familiar Republican theme in this cycle, ties Democratic nominee Danny O’Connor to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.