Aug 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

First look: McCarthy PAC's new offense play

Illustration of top, middle and bottom views of three elephants, making up an image of one elephant and cycling through the different parts.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The super PAC aligned with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has reserved another $37 million in TV time for the last two months before midterms — with $9 of every $10 targeting seats carried by President Biden in 2020 — Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The aggressive buy from the Congressional Leadership Fund is a rejoinder to growing talk about Democrats finding a shot to retain the House.

The big picture: Democrats hope to harness voter energy around protecting abortion rights to motivate their base and appeal to independents in an election Republicans had hoped would focus on economic anxiety.

  • In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been tempering expectations, warning that his party may not win back the majority.
  • But Republicans remain confident they can retake the House, and CLF is doubling down on offensive spending, even in places where Biden won by double digits two years ago.
  • “Republicans are in great position to win the House and we’re adding more firepower to the arsenal we need to make it a reality,” CLF president Dan Conston told Axios.

Details: The $37 million in new CLF reservations come on top of $125 million the group announced in April. New investments include:

  • Texas' 34th Congressional District, where Rep. Mayra Flores (R) flipped control in a special election but where redistricting now makes the seat more favorable to her Democratic rival, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez.
  • Indiana's 1st Congressional District, where Republican Jennifer-Ruth Green, a Black veteran, faces first-term Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan.
  • New York's 17th Congressional District, where Republican Mike Lawler is seeking to unseat Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney.

CLF is also going on defense in four districts in California, Iowa and Nebraska.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s PAC plans an additional $20 million ad buy for the campaign’s final weeks, Axios has reported. It's already spent more than $100 million on TV and digital ads for Democrats this cycle.
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Friday reserved $24 million for their latest ad buys. Some of the new reservations are to bolster the party’s efforts to go on offense, with a small portion of the spending aimed at flipping Republican seats.

What we're watching: Biden’s approval ratings are still low, but show signs of creeping up amid Democratic legislative wins on clean energy, prescription drug prices, manufacturing, semiconductors and veterans.

  • Biden's recent student loan forgiveness decision also could impact voter sentiment.
  • Inflation remains a major concern, but its pace has slowed.
  • Recent decreases in high gas prices are giving Americans some late summer relief.
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