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Blog Home Page --> House -- Illinois -- 14

NRCC Targets Foster, Kratovil on Health Care

If freshman congressmen Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) turn on their TVs at home this week, they may see their own faces alongside a headshot of Nancy Pelosi in a new ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee. The ad targets the Democrats on the issue of health care.

"Foster already votes with Pelosi 90% of the time, now what do you think he'll do?" the narrator states in the ad. "Call Foster, tell him to oppose Pelosi's cuts to Medicare."

Both Democrats succeeded Republicans in the 2008 elections. Foster took over Illinois's 14th District, formerly represented by Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, in a March 2008 special election against Jim Oberweis. Foster won a full term in November.

Kratovil won Maryland's 1st District, whose moderate Republican incumbent, Wayne Gilchrest, was defeated by a more conservative challenger in the GOP primary. Kratovil defeated Andy Harris (R) by less than 1 point in the general election.

Dems Win Hastert Seat

In a development sure to further rattle the already shaken House Republican caucus, voters in Illinois' exurban Fourteenth District voted yesterday to replace Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican Speaker in the country's history, with a Democrat. With all but four precincts reporting, physicist and businessman Bill Foster leads businessman Jim Oberweis, the Republican, 52%-48%, the AP reported.

The race had turned nasty and personal in recent weeks, with charges and counter-charges from both campaigns and with more than $2.2 million in spending from both national Democratic and Republican campaign committees. Both candidates also spent millions of their own money on the race, with Oberweis dropping more than $2 million and Foster topping $1 million.

Two of the three remaining presidential candidates got involved as well, with John McCain stopping by for an Oberweis fundraiser and Barack Obama cutting an advertisement with Foster, which the Democrat ran through the special election's closing days.

Foster and Oberweis each won two elections on February 5, when they took their respective party's nominations: The two won the right to carry their party's banners in yesterday's special election as well as in the November contest which will determine who represents the district in the 111th Congress.

In November, while Oberweis will have the added advantage of higher turnout in a normally Republican district in a presidential year, Foster could also benefit from those turning out to vote for home-stater Obama. Foster will also head into the rematch with the advantage of incumbency.

Foster's victory is a huge morale boost to national Democrats, many of whom hailed the win as a harbinger. "Foster's victory in the seat that was held by Speaker Hastert sends a political shock wave across America this election year," DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen said in a statement. "Bill Foster's election is the shot of change heard around the world," caucus chair Rahm Emanuel said.

National Republicans downplayed the defeat. The NRCC's new communications director, Karen Hanretty, shrugged off the notion that the seat is indicative of a larger trend. "The Democratic candidates [for president] are trading election victories from week to week and the nomination could hinge on a few news cycles," Hanretty said in her own statement. "The one message coming out of 2008 so far is that what happens today is not a bellwether of what happens this fall."

Still, one of Republicans' biggest wins in 1994 took place in Eastern Washington State, where then-House Speaker Tom Foley was ousted by Republican George Nethercutt. Foley was one of dozens of House Democrats to lose that year as Republicans swept back to power. Even after Democrats took charge, the fact that they were able to steal the former Speaker's heavily-Republican district will suggest that voters are not finished taking out their anger on the GOP.

Foster Ahead Of Oberweis

In the race for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's exurban Chicago Congressional seat, scientist Bill Foster, a Democrat, has taken the lead, a poll conducted for his campaign claims. A Foster win in the March 8 special election would be national news, marking the first time since 1994 when a Speaker of the House was replaced by a member of the opposite party.

The poll, conducted by the Global Strategy Group, was conducted of 402 voters who said they were likely to cast ballots in the special election. The survey, conducted between February 21-24, had a margin of error of +/- 4.9% and tested Foster and businessman Jim Oberweis, the winner of the February 5 GOP primary. The sample consisted of 41% Republicans, 32% Democrats and 21% who said they were independents.

General Election Matchup
Foster 45 (+2 from last, 2/6-10)
Oberweis 41 (-4)

Foster is seen in a more favorable light by those who have yet to decide than Oberweis. Among that group, Foster is viewed favorably by 46%, while just 10% see him unfavorably. After a contentious GOP primary, Oberweis' numbers are lower, at 34% favorable to 25% unfavorable.

While Republicans have questioned the poll's integrity, a Foster spokesman told Politics Nation that the general election matchup was taken at the top of the poll and after only screening questions and party identification questions. Asking about a matchup after biographies are read to respondents can skew a poll's results; that was not the case in this survey. The party identification breakdown, reflecting the district's heavily GOP tilt, compared with the general election results also indicates that the contest is a real race.

It seems trite to say the election hinges on turnout, but for the first time in the history of the state of Illinois, voters will head to the polls on a Saturday, causing many to fear a low-turnout election, making results unpredictable. Whichever candidate has the best turnout operation will win, and both campaigns claim theirs is best.

This race will continue for a while, though: Foster and Oberweis not only secured their party's nominations for the March special, they also won nods to represent their parties on the November ballot. By then, one will have the power of incumbency.

McCain, Obama Head To Aurora

Adding to the attention this competitive House race has already received, presidential candidates are now weighing in on the special election in Illinois's vacant 14th District. As we wrote Wednesday, both parties are showing optimism for winning the seat.

As the suburban Chicago Courier News reports, Democratic nominee Bill Foster's campaign announced yesterday that Senator Barack Obama has filmed a new TV ad with Foster. A day earlier, Republican nominee Jim Oberweis's campaign announced Senator John McCain will be attending a fundraiser for Oberweis next week.

This added interest shows how important winning the March 8 special election is, giving the winner the incumbency advantage in the November general election.

Of course, Foster still is not set as the Democratic nominee in November, as his primary competitor John Laesch refuses to concede, the Shaw News Service reports.

Though a first-time candidate, Foster is familiar with Congressional campaigns, as the Chicago Tribune writes. He claims to be the mastermind behind the get-out-the-vote effort in Pennsylvania's 8th District in 2006, helping Democrat Patrick Murphy oust Republican incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick in the suburban Philadelphia district. Republicans familiar with Oberweis' campaign scoff at the notion that Foster's formula provided the crucial boost to Murphy, who beat a Republican incumbent by 1500 votes in a district President Bush lost twice.

Strategists agree that turnout will be key to both the special election and the battle in November, likely featuring the same candidates. If Foster's model really worked in Pennsylvania, he has a a fighting chance this year.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Update: An outside group has branded Foster the "mad scientist," and agree with them or not, this web video's pretty clever:

Hastert Seat Brews Optimism

After a nasty Republican primary to replace House Speaker Dennis Hastert and a closer than expected race on the Democratic side, both parties claim optimism in the battle for the seat, which extends from suburban Chicago west to the state's border. The two winning candidates will face off both in a March 8 special election to replace Hastert and in November, for a new two-year term.

A new poll, conducted for scientist and businessman Bill Foster, the Democratic nominee, shows a tight race. Conducted by Global Strategies Group, a Democratic polling firm, the survey interviewed 525 likely voters between February 6-10, for a margin of error of 4.3%. Foster and businessman Jim Oberweis, the Republican nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup
Oberweis 45
Foster 43

Opinions of President Bush run poorly in the district, as 60% say they have an unfavorable impression of the commander in chief. That, as well as Oberweis' association with Hastert, is an opening Democrats hope to exploit. Republicans, though, say that will be an ineffective line of argument. Too, Republicans point out problems with the poll, including that the sample included weekend days, which skews a sample, and that party identification breakdowns were not included in the release.

The GOP also points to the fact that more Republicans turned out in the state's February 5 primary than Democrats, despite the fact that native son Barack Obama headed the ballot. "It was a perfect storm for the Democrats," said one source close to the Oberweis campaign. "Obama's not on the ballot on March 8," another GOP source crowed.

Both candidates came through a difficult primary. Oberweis won an expensive and at times personal battle with State Senator Chris Lauzen, while Foster barely won a surprisingly close battle with an underfunded opponent who had run against Hastert in 2006. Both nominees spent heavily from their own wallets, though Foster spent more. The Oberweis campaign indicated it expected to spend another $1 to $2 million on the March special election, and Foster is expected to spend heavily as well.

DCCC and the NRCC spokespeople refused to comment on whether the two committees would target the district with independent expenditures, though a source at the DCCC said that while no decision had been finalized, the party is likely to wade in. Oberweis attended a meeting of the House Republican conference this morning, at which NRCC chairman Tom Cole urged fellow Republicans to help fund his campaign.

Foster and Oberweis will spend most of this year going head to head, both in person and over the airwaves. Given the personal nature of the primary, the race could end up as one of the most heated in the country.

Dems Still Counting In IL

The Democratic primary in the 14th District of Illinois isn't over yet, reports the Arlington Daily Herald. We reported yesterday that scientist Bill Foster had defeated 2006 nominee John Laesch by less than a point in the contest to decide the party's nominee for the November general election. While that outcome looks like it will stand, ballots that could matter are still being counted.

Absentee ballots have yet to be counted in Kane, DeKalb and Kendall counties, and Laesch has said he will not concede until all the votes are counted. However, there is a roughly 400-vote margin currently separating the two candidates, and only a total of some 175 absentee ballots in the three counties.

If Laesch, by some miracle, does win, either on the first count or in a recount, the Democratic Party will have picked two different candidates for the same seat. Foster won the simultaneous special primary to become the nominee in the March 8 election to fill the remainder of former Speaker Dennis Hastert's term.

The DCCC had backed Foster over Laesch, if not publicly then privately. Still, it wouldn't be the first time the party's favored candidate didn't make it through a primary. After Democratic activist Carol Shea-Porter beat out State Rep. Jim Craig for the right to face Republican Rep. Jeb Bradley in New Hampshire last year, the DCCC, which had been touting Craig's potential, all but abandoned the district. But in November, Shea-Porter won the seat in one of the biggest upsets of the year.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Previewing IL Primaries

While the country's attention tomorrow will be focused on the more than 20 presidential primaries, the first congressional primaries of the 2008 season will also take place in the Land of Lincoln. With three open seats, including a special election to fill the remainder of former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert's term, the Illinois primaries will initiate some long, competitive general election races.

Republican Rep. Jerry Weller, stepping down from his 11th District seat, won just 55% last year despite a large fundraising advantage. Democrats are targeting this seat and have a candidate they like in State Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson, who has close to $400,000 in her campaign treasury and is unopposed in the primary.

The favorite on the Republican side is Tim Baldermann, New Lenox mayor and Chicago Ridge police chief. He's raised more than $100,000 so far, and is being opposed in the primary by Terry Heenan and Jimmy Lee, the latter of which has outspent Baldermann but badly trails in cash on hand. The winner of the GOP primary will need plenty of financial support for the general election, as Halvorson has already made the DCCC's Red-to-Blue list, which promises generous fundraising support.

The special primary for Hastert's seat has been hotly contested on the GOP side, as we've reported earlier. The GOP and Democratic winners of the special primary will face off March 8 to fill the remainder of Hastert's term. They will likely be the same winners of the coinciding primary for the party nominations for the November general election, meaning the excitement from the special election will likely carry on through the next 10 months.

Dairy magnate Jim Oberweis is the front-runner on the GOP side. Having devoted a large amount of his own resources to the campaign, and having entered the race after running for office before, Oberweis owns a hefty head start in both name recognition and ad spending. What he might lack to State Senator Chris Lauzen, his chief opponent, in an established organization is made up with help from Hastert, who is backing Oberweis. Democrats are enthusiastic about Bill Foster, a scientist independently wealthy enough to stay financially competitive with Oberweis in a general.

Due to former basketball coach Dick Versace's precipitous exit from the race, there will be no Democrats on the ticket in Illinois's 18th District primary. The party will choose its nominee after February 5. So the only excitement will be on the GOP side, as three Republicans are spending big as they vie for the chance to succeed Rep. Ray LaHood, who's stepping down at the end of the year.

State Rep. Aaron Schock has spent more than $500,000 on the race. He's being opposed by television executive John Morris and Heartland Partnership CEO Jim McConoughey, who have both spent at least $250,000. Schock is expected to make it through the primary.

One incumbent tomorrow faces yet another difficult primary challenge. In Cook County's 3rd District, Rep. Daniel Lipinski's moderate record and what opponents call blatant nepotism makes him a biennial target in the primary. Three Democrats are giving serious challenge to the 2-term incumbent.

Mark Pera, a local high school board president, has outspent Lipinski by close to a 3-to-1 margin, and outraised him by more than $150,000. Pera's chances are probably the best against Lipinski, but Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett has spent more than $150,000, and Army Lt. Col. Jim Capparelli dispersed about $85,000. The presence of the two other candidates could hurt Pera, an attorney, in his bid to knock off Lipinski, who four years ago became the Democratic nominee when his father, a long-time incumbent, dropped out at the last minute. The winner of the Democratic primary will be heavily favored in the general election.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Chicago's Expensive

With Illinois's congressional primary taking place on February 5, candidates' financial records for the last three months were due last night to the FEC, a week earlier than candidates in other states. As the reports indicate, the Chicago-area districts with competitive primaries are proving to be incredibly expensive.

In the 14th District, west of Chicago, where former Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat is being vigorously contested in the Republican primary, dairy company owner Jim Oberweis spent some $1.4 million from October 1 to January 16, the dates outlined in the most recent filing. His competition for the Republican nomination, State Senator Chris Lauzen, also spent a hefty sum, dispersing more than $500,000 in the last three months.

The campaign's hefty cost is due in part to the expensive Chicago media market, and also to the personal wealth both candidates enjoy. In the Democratic primary race, Bill Foster spent close to $750,000 in the last three months, outspending his rival John Laesch, the 2006 nominee, by some $700,000.

In the 3rd District, where Congressman Daniel Lipinski has had his closest races in a Democratic primary, Assistant State's Attorney Mark Pera spent close to $500,000 in the last three months. Pera, hoping to capitalize on Lipinski's vulnerability, has retained Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, a major Washington polling and media firm, and has run television ads throughout the Chicago area. Lipinski spent just under $100,000, and still has close to $400,000 in the bank. With no other Democrats spending large amounts of money, Lipinski could see much closer primary results this year than in 2006.

North of Chicago, in the 8th District, Congresswoman Melissa Bean doesn't need to worry about a competitive primary, but she has been preparing for her biennial fight for her life. President Bush won 56% here in the last two presidential elections, while Bean has never won more than 52% in either of her two election wins.

With just under 10 months to go before the general election, Bean has close to $1.3 million in the bank, a large total to start an election year with. But Republican businessman Steven Greenberg has raised just more than $400,000 so far, and has less than $100,000 cash on hand.

-- Kyle Trygstad

A Heated Battle For Hastert's Seat

Former Speaker Dennis Hastert's retirement from the House has sparked a combative two-person race for the Republican nomination in Illinois's 14th District special primary. Dairy company owner Jim Oberweis and State Senator Chris Lauzen have been running highly negative campaigns, The Beacon News reports, including direct mail pieces featuring "dead cows" and accusations of "dirty campaign contributions."

Just two weeks remain in this tight battle, as the special primary, as well as the primary for the November general election, will be held February 5.

Lauzen's first negative mailer referenced Oberweis's three failed campaigns--two for the Senate and one for governor--by using three cartoon cows with Xs over their eyes. It read: "Good ice cream...yes. Good candidate...No!" The mailer also accused Oberweis of FEC violations from a previous campaign.

Oberweis's recent mailers have included accusations of a scandal related to the nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions Lauzen has accepted over the last 10 years from a company currently under investigation by the Illinois attorney general's office. Lauzen's campaign has since returned the money.

On top of support from Hastert, the Chicago Tribune endorsed Oberweis last week, despite what it called a "vitriolic anti-immigration message" that the paper had criticized Oberweis for in his previous campaigns. The newspaper also cited Lauzen's 14 years in the state Senate "where he has alienated many legislators and been minimally effective."

Four Democrats, including scientist Bill Foster and 2006 Democratic nominee Jonathan Laesch, are also vying for the district, which President Bush won in 2004 with 55% of the vote. Laesch won 40% of the vote in 2006 and gave Hastert his lowest margin of victory since first being elected to the House in 1986.

The Democratic and Republican nominees will face off in a March 8 special election, the winner of which will serve out the remainder of Hastert's term, and have the early lead in the November general election race.

--Kyle Trygstad

Polls Show Tight Race For Hastert Seat

Sometimes it pays to lose a campaign. In some cases, a loss can set up a candidate well for the next time he or she makes a bid. That's what businessman Jim Oberweis is hoping as he seeks to replace retiring Speaker Dennis Hastert in the suburban Chicago district. Still, two polls taken recently show, while Oberweis begins the primary in good position, he is no shoe-in for the nomination.

The first poll, taken for Oberweis's campaign from the respected Republican firm McLaughlin & Associates, shows the two-time Senate candidate and 2006 gubernatorial candidate leading his GOP opponents, two of whom have an elected base within the district. Hiring McLaughlin brings extra benefits to the Oberweis campaign; the pollster also worked for Hastert, and would presumably donate his institutional knowledge of the district.

The poll, conducted 10/16-18, as Oberweis launched the cycle's first television ads, also surveyed State Sen. Chris Lauzen, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns and Rudy Clai. A total of 333 Republican primary voters were surveyed for a margin of error of +/- 5.4%.

Primary Election Matchup
Oberweis 41
Lauzen 37
Burns 3
Clai 0
Other/undec 19

Oberweis 63 / 19
Lauzen 50 / 6
Burns 11 / 6

On the other hand, a separate poll taken last month on Lauzen's behalf shows similar numbers. The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, Lauzen's long-time pollster, between 10/22-23. 300 likely primary voters were surveyed, for a margin of error of +/- 5.6%. Lauzen, Oberweis and Burns were tested.

Primary Election Matchup
Lauzen 38
Oberweis 38
Burns 4

Oberweis 63 / 20
Lauzen 55 / 5

In both polls, Lauzen and Oberweis are well within the margin of error for first place. That's good news for both candidates, though both have the ability to drop significant amounts of their personal fortunes into the race.

The winner will face the winner of a Democratic primary between 2006 nominee John Laesch, attorney Jotham Stein, businessman Joe Serra and scientist Bill Foster. Foster, who is also independently wealthy, is considered the favorite. Come November, the race to replace Hastert will likely be one of a few around the country in which both candidates trigger the so-called millionaire's amendment, making the race incredibly expensive for both parties.

Morning Thoughts: Tourists Rejoice!

Good Thursday morning. Summer keeps sticking around Washington, though every morning we swear we feel the tide turning. It's judgment day at Fenway Park, but in Washington, here's what's driving the day:

-- The Senate continues debating the Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations bill, while the House takes a critical vote on overriding the president's veto of SCHIP legislation. The veto is likely, many say, to be sustained by a comfortable margin. Still, emboldened by the public's support for the program, House and Senate Democrats have shown little willingness to compromise. In committees, a vote on reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was pulled from the House floor yesterday after Republicans employed a parliamentary maneuver, so the Senate Intelligence Committee takes up the matter today instead. Judge Michael Mukasey undergoes a second day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as they weigh his appointment as Attorney General.

-- Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the Republican who served longest in that post, will resign his seat soon, two sources told CNN's Deirdre Walsh yesterday. Hastert, one source said, "is just done with being a member of Congress." Hastert was House Speaker from 1999 to the end of 2006. The move sets up a special election in Illinois' 14th District, a seat that leans Republican, though a wealthy Democrat, businessman Bill Foster, will be competitive here. Top Republican candidates include State Sen. Chris Lauzen, businessman Jim Oberweis, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns.

-- Mitt Romney's people are doing nothing to dissuade the notion that it's a two-person GOP race. One adviser on the campaign's payroll emailed fellow Christian conservatives yesterday urging them to back Romney so that Rudy Giuliani doesn't win the GOP nomination, writes Jonathan Martin. While many have wondered whether Romney's Mormonism will hurt him in South Carolina (and it doesn't, with Bob Jones III, at least), we wonder what happens when Christian conservative leaders make a more strenuous push against Giuliani. That could wound his campaign more than Romney's religion, by the end of the day.

-- FEC details keep sticking out like so many sore thumbs, and Washington Post's Paul Kane takes a look at some members in legal trouble who may not be around next year. Rep. William Jefferson, the Louisiana Democrat indicted in the Spring under many counts of corruption, has just $33,000 cash on hand and finds himself in $260,000 worth of debt, most of which comes in the form of loans to himself. He raised just $15,000 in the 3rd Quarter, only $150 of that from someone other than a fellow member of Congress.

-- Rep. John Doolittle, a California Republican, is another ethical retirement threat. He's seen at least nine staffers questioned by authorities, and under threat of indictment he raised just $50,000 and retained just $38,000 cash on hand, and close to the same amount of debt. Doolittle spent more than $2.3 million to beat his Democratic opponent by a narrow margin last year, and that opponent is running again -- though this time Charlie Brown has $380,000 cash on hand, more than ten times what Doolittle has. Chris Cillizza thinks his seat is the most vulnerable Republican seat in the House, assuming Doolittle remains on the ballot. Still, three Republicans are already running against the long-time incumbent, and his chances of surviving a primary look thin.

-- Two big endorsements on the Democratic side today: Washington Post reports that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a former Clinton Administration official and only the second African American governor in modern history, will back Obama, his fellow Harvard Law graduate. For former Sen. John Edwards, his support comes from former Congressman Ben Jones, of Georgia (who later ran in Virginia). If the name doesn't sound familiar to you, consider another way of looking at it. Jones played Cooter Davenport, the mechanic on the Dukes of Hazzard, from 1979 to 1985. M.E. Sprenglemeyer has photos of the grease monkey campaigning through Iowa with his fellow Southerner.

-- Stephen Colbert is running for President. No, really, check out Tom's post yesterday. Very funny, right? Turns out, according to Vanity Fair's Wilshire & Washington, that a Colbert representative contacted the South Carolina Democratic Party weeks ago, and that South Carolina GOP chief Katon Dawson said his office had received a phone call as well. This can't be serious, right?

-- Real Lede Of The Day: Playbook puts it second. The Express ledes with it. It's on the bottom right front page of the Washington Times, bottom left of the Washington Post. That's right, Washington, D.C., cabs will switch from zoned fares to metered fares, per an order by the city's mayor, Adrian Fenty. For years, it was rumored that zone one, which encompassed the Capitol all the way to George Washington University, was established to give members of Congress a cheap ride downtown. No more, says the Mayor. And no more do cabbies get to cheat tourists who know not where they are.

-- Today On The Trail: Fred Thompson is in Kennesaw, Georgia, to accept an endorsement, then fundraises in Atlanta and Powder Springs. John McCain holds town hall meetings in Spartanburg and Greenville, South Carolina, while Rudy Giuliani meets voters in Minneapolis and Chicago. Mitt Romney holds events in Pawleys Island, Florence, Spartanburg and Fort Mill, South Carolina. Mike Huckabee delivers remarks at Franklin Pierce College, then holds events in Peterborough, Concord and Amherst, New Hampshire. On the Democratic side, Clinton attends a health care forum in Washington, Barack Obama has town hall meetings in Reno and North Las Vegas, Joe Biden stops in Sheldon, Cherokee, Storm Lake, Laurena and Lohrville, Iowa, and Bill RIchardson gives a talk in Des Moines, then meets voters at separate events in Nevada (remember, governor: "Ne-vey-da, Iowa") and Des Moines.

In IL 14, An Expensive Primary

The race to replace former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is going to prove expensive, even before a Democrat gets involved. Several wealthy candidates, including dairy owner Jim Oberweis and State Sen. Chris Lauzen, will likely contribute heavily to their own campaigns, and indeed have already done so.

After declaring his candidacy just three weeks ago, Lauzen, a State Senator since 1992, will report having raised over $210,000 from more than 265 donors. Lauzen is also kicking in a personal loan of $325,000, for a cash on hand total north of $525,000, sources tell RCP's Tom Bevan.

Oberweis's campaign refused to release fundraising numbers, but a source tells Politics Nation the campaign will begin running its first advertisements today. The district, which stretches west of Chicago from Aurora nearly to the Iowa border, is Cubs territory. The team faces the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round of the playoffs, and thanks to Major League Baseball's decision to put the games on cable, ad rates are significantly less expensive than network rates would be.

With ads going up so early -- the primary is scheduled for March -- the race will only get more expensive.