4.25.2008

DCCC going for the kill in Southern special elections

The first round of the special election in MS-01, held Tuesday, was obscured by the higher-profile Pennsylvania primary. But the result was truly stunning: In this heavily Republican district that gave 62% of its vote to George Bush, the Democratic candidate came about 400 votes from the 50% mark that would have gotten him elected in the first round and 3% ahead of the GOP candidate. No one was expecting Childers to get this close to an outright majority; there were 6 names on the non-partisan ballot and, even if the race was looking competitive, most of the attention was focused on neighboring LA-06 which holds its special election on May 3rd.

But Childers fell just short and thus the race has to go to a runoff on May 13th. A probably very frustrated DCCC can harbor some regrets: It did not meet the NRCC's final spending in the district and ended up spending half as much, in a clear calculation that the race would go beyond April 22nd. Had they invested a bit more in the final week, those 400 votes could perhaps have been found. But this is a a case in which hindsight is really 20-20.

Tuesday's numbers by no means ensure a Democratic victory in the runoff, and Republicans are likely to fight back to try and close the 3% gap. But consider how concerned the NRCC must be this week. An outspent Democrat came close to a stunning upset against a Republican with no particular baggage in a district we only started paying attention two weeks ago. This paints a truly terrifying picture of what awaits the GOP in November. There are other seats that don't feature on people's competitive list because of their Republican lean, and they are plenty of endangered incumbents who seat on districts that are more vulnerable than MS-01. Trailing the DCCC's cash-on-hand by $37 million, the NRCC does not have the money to compete in most of these districts. If the Democratic candidates have such potential in other supposedly uncompetitive districts, there is little the NRCC will be able to do about it.

For now, the congressional committees are raising the stakes in the two Southern special elections. The DCCC just bought a large media buy against Greg Davis in MS-01; the $220K bring their total to $360K; there is no word for now of the GOP rushing to Davis' rescue after the run-off and the Republican strategists are probably now calculating how much is it worth for them to spend considering how little money they have and how close to a victory Childers is.

In a sign that Democratic strength in MS-01 might make the GOP concentrate more on LA-06, the latest Republican spending is coming from the latter: the NRCC bought a $130K ad against Cazayoux, bringing its total to $250K. But the DCCC more than responded with a $257K media buy against Jenkins as well as much smaller organizing expenditures. The DCCC has now spent a total of $670K in LA-06 -- outspending their counterparts nearly 3:1!

The Republicans are staying afloat here thanks to the spending of other groups such as Club for Growth and Freedom's Watch, which has spent half-a-million in the district. All together, expenditures meant to help Jenkins are superior to those on Cazayoux's side but not by enough to outweigh the fact that the Democrat has been favored to win the seat ever since the two parties selected their nominees.

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