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« A Tale Of Two Veeps | Blog Home Page | This Week On PN Radio »

Parties Spending In Specials

Meeting with reporters earlier this week, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen reemphasized how important a special election win can be to a party committee, a little more than a month after Democrat Bill Foster beat Republican Jim Oberweis in an exurban Chicago district previously held by former Speaker Dennis Hastert. "Illinois 14 did send a political shockwave across the country," Van Hollen said.

Now, Democrats are hoping they can repeat the performance. Sensing another opportunity to steal a seat from Republicans, the DCCC has started spending money in a Louisiana district once held by Republican Richard Baker, buying more than $92,000 in television time for an ad opposing Republican nominee Woody Jenkins. In addition, the party is spending more than $10,000 on literature on behalf of their candidate, State Rep. Don Cazayoux, and for field organizing.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which had initially suggested that they would not spend significant resources should Jenkins have won the primary, is firing back with a new ad of their own, hitting Cazayoux for what they characterize as a career spend raising taxes. The NRCC bought just over $100,000 for the ad, which slams Cazayoux without mentioning Jenkins.

The district should not be a problem for Republicans, under normal circumstances. President Bush won easily there, twice, and Baker never had a difficult time beating out his Democratic opponents. But an influx of new voters, many refugees from Hurricane Katrina, may have tilted the district enough to the left to be winnable for Democrats. Jenkins makes Cazayoux's job easier, as he's widely considered to be too conservative for an already conservative district.

Republicans may be in for more bad news in the neighboring state, where Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker's former House seat is also up for grabs in a special election later this month. A poll commissioned by Democrat Travis Childers shows him in a statistical dead heat with Republican Greg Davis in a seat that is even more conservative than Baker's Louisiana district.

The poll, Republicans will point out, was conducted by a Democratic firm and for a Democratic candidate. But it's close enough and worrying enough to make Republicans begin to panic. While no party committees have spent money on advertising in the district, new FEC reports show the NRCC paid Republican firm Ayres, McHenry & Associates $12,000 for their own survey of district voters.

If Republicans, already in a financial hole, have to play defense in seats like Baker's and Wicker's, the party is in for a seriously painful year. On the other hand, Democrats will face more challenges this fall when they have to run with a presidential nominee heading the ticket. Southern voters may be willing to vote for a Democrat in a special election, but the job gets a lot harder when a Republican candidate can associate themselves with John McCain, who is likely to carry most southern states by large margins.