Oct 2, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House GOP expands map with new $14 million ad blitz

Data: Congressional Leadership Fund; Table: Thomas Oide/Axios
Data: Congressional Leadership Fund; Table: Thomas Oide/Axios

A super PAC tied to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is pouring another $14 million into ad reservations in key House districts as the midterm campaign enters its final stage, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The Congressional Leadership Fund's spending offers a road map of which districts House Republicans view as their best pickup opportunities — as well as which incumbents they see as their most vulnerable.

What we're watching: Republicans are still putting aside money to defend vulnerable Republicans. One of the priciest reservations is $2 million on behalf of Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), whose Miami-area district is rated by the Cook Political Report as "likely Republican."

  • The campaign of Salazar's Democratic opponent, state Sen. Annette Taddeo, told Florida Politics the spending "shows what we all know, that our message is reaching voters and that we’re on track to flip this district."
  • Salazar won the district by three points in 2020, defeating Democratic incumbent Donna Shalala even as President Biden won it by three points. The district's lines grew a bit more favorable for Republicans after redistricting — it now would have backed Trump by less than a percentage point.

Details: CLF is also putting $650,000 and $500,000 into protecting Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.), respectively, with another $870,000 allocated to hold onto retiring Rep. John Katko's (R-N.Y.) seat. All three are rated by Cook as toss-ups.

  • That's on top of $325,000 the PAC already reserved in Bacon's Omaha-based district and $1.7 million in Katko's Syracuse-based seat.
  • Bacon told Axios in an August interview: "This is not going to be handed to us on a platter. We're going to have to fight and we're going to have to give everything we've got to get us over the finish line."
  • Last month, CLF reserved $1.25 million for Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) and $1.1 million for Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa). Both of their districts backed Trump, and the races are rated by the Cook Report as likely Republican.

Yes, but: CLF is also spending $2 million to unseat Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), one of the most moderate Democrats in the House. Cook rates his race as a toss-up.

  • Golden is seen as one of the Democrats' strongest candidates, but the district went for Trump by seven points in 2020. He's running against former GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin.
  • The PAC is also putting $600,000 into defeating Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) in a district that Biden carried by double-digits.

The big picture: The vast majority of the spending is in open districts, including five that are being vacated by Democrats who are retiring or ran for higher office. Two are open seats in California and Colorado created by redistricting.

  • Among the biggest expenditures are $1.8 million to win New York's 19th District, $1 million apiece to win Rep. Tim Ryan's (D-Ohio) northeast Ohio seat and Rep. Cheri Bustos' (D-Ill.) seat in northwest Illinois, and $850,000 to win Rep. Conor Lamb's (D-Pa.) seat in the Pittsburgh suburbs.
  • CLF is also spending $625,000 against Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a progressive who unseated moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) in May.

By the numbers: These districts voted for Biden in 2020 by an average of six points. The most Biden-leaning district is Oregon's 4th, which the president won by 13 points.

The bottom line: Republicans are expecting to contest a sizable number of seats in Democratic territory in preparation for a possible wave election. But they're also expressing concern about several of their own members, a sign of how volatile the political environment is in the closing weeks of the midterms.

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