WASHINGTON — House Democrats have reserved more than $32 million in ad time in districts across the country, giving an early sketch of the race for control of the House.
Broadly, the ad reservations show that House Democrats will try to regain control of the chamber in many of the same states President Barack Obama must win to get re-elected in November.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's reservation includes congressional districts in 14 states, heavily concentrated on presidential swing states. It includes more than $8 million in Florida, $3 million in Ohio and about $2 million in Colorado.
In total, 26 targeted seats are held by Republicans, seven by vulnerable Democrats and three seats are open. Democrats need 25 seats to take back the House.
Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for the House Democratic campaign committee, characterized the buy as "early" and "aggressive" and said it "puts House Republicans on notice. Democrats are on offense and positioned to win."
This is the earliest that the DCCC has reserved ad time in an election cycle.
Republicans called the buy a sign of desperation.
"The Democrats just pushed a $32 million panic button," said Andrea Bozek, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "Already having to invest resources into defending members who supported President Obama's job-destroying policies isn't a good sign for (House Democratic leader) Nancy Pelosi's desire to get back into the speaker's chair."
The House Democratic ads would begin airing after Labor Day, when the fall campaign traditionally begins in earnest. The total amount spent and the districts being targeted could change, but the reservation is an early sign of the Democrats' election game plan.
Democrats said the reservation is for an initial wave of advertising and that spending would likely increase.
Notably, the ad buy announced Wednesday did not include time in California, where Democrats have high hopes of picking up seats in November. It also includes limited spending in Illinois, another state where Democrats see pick-up opportunities. Neither state is considered in play in the presidential race.
Democrats said one reason for the early ad reservation is the expectation that rates in hotly contested presidential states will soar in the fall as Obama, GOP nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney and third-party groups flood the airwaves.
The buy offers the clearest indication yet of what Democrats see as their most plausible path to power.
The party believes it has good opportunities in Florida, where millions of dollars in ad time has been reserved in Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Tallahassee and Miami markets; Ohio; Pennsylvania, where $3.5 million alone has been set aside for a cluster of Philadelphia area house seats; and Nevada, where $1.8 million in ad time is being reserved for two House seats.
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Many of the targeted members are freshmen closely aligned with the tea party movement, including Reps. Allen West, R-Fla., Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., and Scott Tipton, R-Colo. Among the veteran lawmakers is Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a staunch conservative who saw more Democrats and independents added to his district during redistricting. King faces a strong challenge from Christy Vilsack, the wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and a former first lady of Iowa.
The reserved air time also shows where Democrats think they'll play defense. Air time has been reserved in the districts of two veteran Iowa congressmen, Leonard Boswell and Dave Loebsack; Denver-area Rep. Ed Perlmutter, North Carolina Reps. Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell and Pennsylvania Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz.
The GOP has yet to announce any districts where it plans to spend money in the fall. The NRCC has about $27.1 million in the bank, compared to $22.8 million for the DCCC.