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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ad-Buyers’ Chess Game Key to Home Stretch Campaigns

Few considerations generate more concern in the final days of political campaigns than decisions made about buying TV ads. And if you thought ad-buys were largely determined by poll-margins in particular races, you would be wrong.
For example, the cost of ads is a major factor in ad-buys. In their WaPo article “As Elections Near, Dueling With Dollars,” reporters Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza, explain the calculations DCCC ad-buyer John Lapp has to make in allocating his $60 million budget:

In Washington’s 5th District, Lapp is running ads hitting freshman Rep. Cathy McMorris despite the strong Republican tilt of the district. That’s because ad time in the Spokane media market, which covers almost the entire district, is relatively inexpensive, allowing the DCCC to fund a week of ads for just over $300,000. It is a cheap bet, even for a long shot.
But Lapp is not running ads against Rep. Jean Schmidt (Ohio) who, despite woeful reelection numbers, benefits from the high price of television time in the Cincinnati market. This decision could save Schmidt’s job, strategists in both parties say.

That’s a shame. other considerations include the intensity of local issues and the opportunity to run an especially powerful message. Then there is the obligation the DCCC has to fund ads for candidates they encouraged to run, regardless of their poll numbers. Democratic ad-buy decisions are made even more difficult in a growing playing field. Says Lapp “Republicans are playing a game of whack-a-mole while we are expanding the number of races in play by the day.”
In such an environment, some bad ad-buy decisions are inevitable. Fortunately, rank-and-file Democrats can help keep them to a minimum by making contributions to the following links, so we don’t have to leave potential winners out on a limb:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

If there was ever a time for true blue Democrats to take action to make Congress more responsive, that would be today.