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August 06, 2008

Freedom's Watch Hits Dems

The conservative 501(c)(4) group Freedom's Watch is taking twelve Democratic candidates to task on energy issues with a new radio and television campaign that a spokesman describes as more significant than simply a headline-grabbing symbolic purchase.

As House Republicans spend their fourth day protesting a lack of action on energy prices, Freedom's Watch is taking aim at incumbent Democrats Nancy Boyda, of Kansas; Don Cazayoux, from Louisiana; Texan Nick Lampson; Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire; and Chris Carney of Pennsylvania. Ads against the five endangered members will try to tie them to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and drilling bans on the Outer-Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Freedom's Watch is doing what it can to protect some Republican incumbents too, targeting four Democratic challengers who look strong at the moment. Challengers to Reps. Bill Sali, in Idaho, Sam Graves, in Missouri, Michigan's Tim Walberg and Randy Kuhl of New York are hit by the same advertisements. Two open seats in Ohio and one in New Mexico, all three seats in which Democrats have a better than even chance of taking a Republican-held seat, are also getting advertisements.

The ads, each of which has an unique script, are mostly running on radio stations through the districts. Spots against Boyda are up on Kansas broadcast television, while the shots at Lampson are on cable television in his suburban Houston district.

Freedom's Watch spokesman Ed Patru said the ads would run for two weeks, and while he wouldn't reveal the amount of money the group spent, he said the ads are not just for show. "The buys are substantial enough to have an impact," Patru said in an email.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's press office has long been warning of the Freedom's Watch bogeyman, maintaining that the organization will drop millions into House races across the country. But aside from television advertising in special elections in Ohio, Mississippi and Louisiana, the group has yet to play a big role. If this ad buy is the first of many, maybe Democrats were right to worry.