NRCC to go on $22 million offensive

The National Republican Congressional Committee plans a broad attack on 40 Democratic districts in the midterm elections, Politico reports, in an attempt to flood the zone and put Democrats on the defensive.  The target district includes both recently-elected Representatives and long-time incumbents, and the number is just about what would be needed to return the House to Republican control.  This contrasts with the strategy of the NRCC’s Democratic counterpart, which is taking a much more defensive stance:

The GOP blueprint for winning control of the House is rapidly coming into focus, with the National Republican Congressional Committee readying a $22 million TV ad blitz aimed at a handful of powerful, long-serving incumbents and several dozen of the most junior members of the Democratic majority.

POLITICO has learned that the Republican campaign arm will invest in 40 districts around the nation in its first wave of television commercial reservations – a target list that ranges from powerful veterans such as Budget Committee Chairman Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) and Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas), an Appropriations Committee cardinal, to endangered freshmen legislators including Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), and Rep. Harry Teague (D-N.M.).

The reservations, which were confirmed to POLITICO by several senior party officials familiar with the buy, provide the clearest snapshot yet of the GOP’s strategy for erasing the 39-seat Democratic advantage in the House—an approach that is contingent on picking off a large number of Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008, in addition to a handful of longtime incumbents.

While Democrats have reserved ad time in 60 races to date, the vast majority of those reservations—54 of them—are designed to protect vulnerable incumbents. Republicans, on the other hand, are investing in an almost entirely offensive effort. Of the 40 seats covered in the NRCC buy, 39 are currently held by Democrats.

One surprise from this report is the sudden health of the NRCC.  Two years ago, the committee found itself struggling through a crisis in bookkeeping and fundraising, and even just a few months ago their financial future was unclear.  This commitment of major resources to an aggressive push in Democratic districts signals that the NRCC has returned from impotence and has positioned itself to be a force in the elections.

Of course, part of this divergence of strategies comes from the numbers.  Democrats have 255 seats to defend, Republicans only 178, with two open. They are naturally going to have to play more defense even in a normal midterm cycle.

This, however, is no normal midterm cycle.  Republicans haven’t seen this level of support in polls for at least 16 years, and perhaps for much longer than that.  The utter failure of Democrats to create an economic environment that generates jobs, combined with their focus on health care while the American economy stumbled, has created a fever pitch of anti-incumbency and opposition to Democrats in general.

The saying “all politics are local” usually applies in midterm elections.  This year looks to be something very different — a referendum on Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama in 435 districts.  If the NRCC has the initiative, this could play out as an overwhelming rejection and a mandate to undo everything that the 111th Session of Congress has done.