Pat Murphy would enter this IA-01 primary as the underdog (updated)

Both Iowa Starting Line and Roll Call are reporting today that former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy is likely to run for Congress again in the first district. Murphy won the five-way 2014 primary with just under 37 percent of the vote.

Other Iowa Democrats have lost their first U.S. House race before winning a seat in Congress on the second try, including legends Neal Smith, Tom Harkin, and Berkley Bedell. Still, I am skeptical that northeast Iowa Democrats will want to give Murphy another shot at beating Republican Rod Blum.

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National Republican Congressional Committee going for IA-01, IA-02 (updated)

Ed Tibbetts reported today for the Quad-City Times that the National Republican Congressional Committee announced plans to buy television air time in Iowa’s first and second Congressional districts. The NRCC says it will spend $900,000 on air time in the Cedar Rapids and Davenport markets to influence the IA-02 race, plus $400,000 in the Cedar Rapids market for IA-01. Although the NRCC gave IA-01 nominee Rod Blum and IA-02 nominee Mariannette Miller-Meeks top-tier status in its program for challengers this summer, up to now the committee has only been advertising in Iowa’s third district, widely considered a tossup race.

Typically NRCC commercals focus on negative messages against the Democratic candidate, just like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee mainly spends its advertising dollars attacking Republicans. The expenditures announced today will likely go for attacks on Pat Murphy (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02), rather than on positive ads about Blum and Miller-Meeks.

Miller-Meeks desperately needs the help, because she is way behind Loebsack in cash on hand. So far this year, only one group (the Teaparty Leadership Fund) has made independent expenditures on her behalf in IA-02. It’s worth noting that the 24 counties in this district are located in five different media markets. Loebsack has been advertising district-wide. The NRCC ads will reach the largest cities in IA-02 but not voters who watch television stations based in Des Moines, Ottumwa-Kirksville, or Quincy, Illinois.

Blum has had only a little more outside help so far, mostly from the Teaparty Leadership Fund, the National Right to Life PAC, and the Faith Family Freedom Fund. As of September 30, Blum had somewhat more cash on hand than Murphy, but last week the DCCC announced plans to spend some $600,000 in IA-01. At this writing, only about $110,000 of that money had been spent.

The NRCC didn’t do much in IA-01 or IA-02 during the 2010 campaign. That year the dark money 501(c)4 group American Future Fund spent over $1 million against incumbent Bruce Braley in IA-01, most of it on tv ads.

During the 2012 cycle, the NRCC ran some tv ads against Braley but pulled out of the IA-01 race in late September. The NRCC spent more than $600,000 against Loebsack in 2012, most of it in September and early October. I’m a little surprised to see so much money moving into these races so late this year, and I assume the decision reflects NRCC confidence in various other House races around the country, where ad time had been reserved.

The DCCC spent more than half a million dollars defending Loebsack against Miller-Meeks in 2010 but was never worried enough to spend money in IA-02 in 2012, despite putting Loebsack in its incumbent protection program early in that cycle. I have not seen any ad buys from the DCCC in IA-02 this year, but Tibbetts reported today that the committee “joined with Loebsack to air a television commercial targeting Miller-Meeks.”

UPDATE: The DCCC will spend another $420,000 on Cedar Rapids television, according to Roll Call’s Abby Livingston. It’s not clear how much of that money will go toward Loebsack’s race and how much toward the open seat.

Democratic-aligned groups should run some positive ads

Unwritten rules about the division of labor in campaign advertising dictate that candidates run mostly positive commercials about themselves, while outside groups beat up the opponent. I understand that negative commercials have been effective in many races, but few things are more irritating than cookie-cutter political attack ads. Listening to the radio every day in recent months, the only ads I’ve heard from Democratic-aligned groups such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, or NextGen Climate Action have been attacks on U.S. Senate nominee Joni Ernst or IA-03 Republican candidate David Young. When the DCCC starts spending money in IA-01, I’ll bet the only ads produced will be attacks on Republican Rod Blum.

Meanwhile, front groups for Republicans have been running a mix of positive and negative ads. In the IA-Sen race, some of the best pro-Ernst ads have come from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the National Federation for Independent Business. Similarly, Ernst’s campaign has run a mix of positive radio ads about her and attacks on Bruce Braley, including a vicious one that’s in heavy rotation now statewide.

I believe that the National Republican Congressional Committee’s positive ad featuring Tom Latham’s endorsement of David Young in IA-03 was more effective than the cliched attacks on Democratic candidate Staci Appel.

It’s been months since I saw any positive television ad about Braley, aside for a few spots produced by his own campaign. Earlier this year, Senate Majority PAC ran some ads that painted Braley in a favorable light, but otherwise it’s been non-stop anti-Ernst messaging from that group, the DSCC, NextGen Climate Action, and Sierra Club Political Action. Most of these commercials have been mediocre at best. Even if they were high quality, I don’t think the strategy helps the candidate they are trying to help.

For some reason, Democratic ad consultants don’t seem to understand that Iowans need to hear reasons to vote for Braley as well as reasons not to vote for Ernst. There is radio silence on the pro-Braley front and not much positive about him on television. Meanwhile, Iowa viewers and listeners are hearing reasons to support Ernst as well as reasons not to support Braley. I believe the lack of positive messaging about Braley is a strategic error and a key reason recent polling in the IA-Sen race has shown slightly better favorability numbers for Ernst.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Quick hits on the race in IA-03

Here’s a new thread for any comments on the race between David Young and Staci Appel in Iowa’s third Congressional district. Some stories that caught my eye in the last few days:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shared with Roll Call partial results from a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll taken on October 1 and 2, which showed Appel ahead of Young by 49 percent to 42 percent, with 9 percent undecided. That’s a bigger lead for Appel than in the previous DCCC poll, despite weeks of Republican attacks on the phony “passports for terrorists” issue.

Speaking of which, I agree with Kathie Obradovich’s take (excerpted below) on the way the candidates handled “passports for terrorists” during their second debate.

Young’s campaign released a memo yesterday hailing some $800,000 in third-quarter fundraising and an internal poll allegedly showing Young ahead. I’ve enclosed that memo and the Appel campaign’s response at the end of this post. The polling firm Tarrance Group used strange methodology. Whereas the survey toplines showed Young leading by 43 percent to 41 percent, with other candidates taking 6 percent and 10 percent undecided, the Tarrance Group claimed Young was ahead by 47 percent to 43 percent based on “projected turnout.”

I look forward to digging into the details of the third-quarter FEC reports, which should be released by October 15. I would expect GOP donors to flock to Senator Chuck Grassley’s longtime top aide. But I don’t understand why Young would cancel television advertising time if his campaign was bringing in so much money in the third quarter. Even if he used some of the money to pay off debts incurred during the second quarter, he should have had plenty left over for a full-court press on television.

The DCCC has increased its television advertising buy in the Omaha market, which covers roughly 20 percent of the population in IA-03. To my knowledge, neither Young nor the National Republican Congressional Committee has aired tv ads in Omaha lately.

The DCCC has been running radio ads bashing “DC David Young” for supporting tax breaks for the wealthy, even as he backs cuts to education funding (such as eliminating the U.S. Department of Education). A similar television spot has been on the air for a while. Although education funding and tax policy are important issues, I suspect most voters tune out cookie-cutter negative political advertising.

Conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart thinks Young has problems with the GOP base because of some comments on abortion, his qualified support for a minimum wage increase, and legal residency for some undocumented immigrants. News flash: IA-03 is a swing district. Young has to communicate some level of moderation on at least a few issues. Vander Hart’s comments make me wonder whether hard-core conservatives will go for Libertarian candidate Ed Wright as a protest vote.

I’ve enclosed below excerpts from Young’s comments to the Des Moines Register’s editorial board about how to handle an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

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IA-03 catch-up thread, with tv ads about education and terrorism

Although all four of Iowa’s Congressional districts are targeted in theory, only the third district is seeing large-scale independent expenditures as well as broadcast advertising by the candidates.

Today Democratic nominee Staci Appel’s campaign launched a new positive ad, focusing on her support for public education at all levels. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a new spot bashing Republican nominee David Young over his call to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee is out with a new ad today about the same “passports for terrorists” canard they featured in their last Iowa effort. Clearly they think this is their strongest card against Appel, and they won’t stop no matter how many news media report her real position on the issue.

Videos and transcripts of all the latest ads are after the jump.

I haven’t seen any new commercials from Young’s campaign lately. Justin Sink reported for The Hill that Young cancelled $107,000 in “reserved television ad time in the Omaha market through election day, according to a source tracking ad buys.” Roughly 20 percent of the voters in IA-03 live in the Omaha viewing area, most of them in Pottawattamie County (Council Bluffs). Residents of Mills, Montgomery, Fremont, Page, and Cass counties also receive Omaha television stations, as do some Iowans living in Adams, Adair, and Taylor counties. Click here for voter registration numbers in all of the 16 IA-03 counties.

The NRCC has pledged to spend $1.5 million on this race between Labor Day and November 4, but to my knowledge, they have only been running their anti-Appel ads in the Des Moines market, not in Omaha. The Appel campaign maintains they are already on broadcast networks in Omaha and will be on cable there shortly, for the duration of the campaign.

Last week the DCCC released partial results from an internal poll showing Appel slightly ahead of Young by 47 percent to 44 percent. I expect this race to remain close all the way up to election day. While Republicans have a slight advantage in voter registrations, Democrats lead so far in absentee ballots requested by voters in the district.

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IA-03: Republicans try oldest trick in the book against Staci Appel

UPDATE: Appel’s response ad is here.

For decades, Republicans have tried to win elections by painting Democrats—especially Democratic women—as soft on crime or weak on national defense. So no one should be surprised by the smear at the heart of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s latest attack on Staci Appel in Iowa’s third district. Taking out of context comments Appel made during her first debate with David Young, the NRCC is claiming Appel supports “passports for terrorists.”

Background and details are after the jump, along with the latest ads from both sides. Politico’s “Morning Score” reported on September 18 that David Young’s campaign has “gone dark”—not airing any television commercials—for the time being. It’s not clear whether the Young campaign is running short of funds or simply taking a break while the NRCC does the heavy lifting. Typically candidates will run positive ads while outside groups run attacks. The NRCC already has a positive spot running about Young as well as the misleading ad they’ve launched against Appel.

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