Republicans need to win six seats in the November election to take control of the US House of Representatives. In advertising spending, they’re beating Democrats in seven districts that were already leaning their way.
In just the two weeks since the Sept. 5 Labor Day holiday, the traditional kickoff for November campaigns, GOP candidates and committees have booked $33 million of ads in those races, compared to $24 million for Democrats, according to data from AdImpact, which tracks political spending.
These districts, which were all redrawn to make them more solidly Republican, are rated lean or likely Republican by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
And in most of the races that are toss-ups, Republicans are also out-muscling Democrats. Out of 31 toss-up contests, Republicans have committed more advertising dollars than Democrats in 18 of them, the data shows.
Although polls show Democrats broadly gaining ground, the spending disparity points to the difficulty of maintaining their majority in the House.
They have more at-risk members than Republicans, who have plenty of money to target them.
“We’re investing heavily in the seats that will make up a new Republican majority, while Democrats are spending millions playing defense,” said Mike Berg, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party arm that backs House candidates.
Republicans, too, have some ground to defend, even though they’re favored to pick up the six seats they need to take control of the House, given historical trends. But Republican momentum, once driven by President Joe Biden’s low approval rating and inflation, has slowed. The US Supreme
Court’s ruling ending the national right to abortion and legislative wins on progressive priorities such as addressing climate change have galvanized Democrats.
“Republicans are on defense thanks to their toxic crusade against our basic freedoms,” said Helen Kalla, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which supports House candidates. “House Democrats are running on strong records of working across the aisle to deliver wins for their districts.”
The seven districts where Republicans are spending big include Iowa’s 3rd, where Democratic Representative Cindy Axne faces Zach Nunn, a state senator. Republicans are outspending Axne and Democrats $3.6 million to $3 million.
The NRCC is tying Axne to Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom they blame for inflation. Axne, who had been running ads positioning herself as a moderate who didn’t follow the party line, has started attacking Nunn for his opposition to abortion.
In Pennsylvania, Republicans have booked $7.3 million in airtime to defeat Democratic Representative Susan Wild. Democrats in contrast have reserved $5.5 million to stave off her opponent, businesswoman Lisa Scheller. As in Iowa, Republicans ads emphasize inflation and her support for Pelosi and Biden, while Wild’s ads similarly say she’s bipartisan and highlight Scheller’s anti-abortion stance.
A wave of Republican wins is far from assured. Democrats have edged ahead in the RealClearPolitics generic congressional ballot average by 1.1 percentage points. They had trailed by as much as 3.9 percentage points in mid-March.
Control of the House will be determined across dozens of districts that are narrowly divided -- and there, too, Democrats are lagging behind, even though they hold 23 of the 31 seats that Cook rates as toss-ups.
Collectively, Republican candidates and committees have booked $153 million on general election advertising in those contests compared with $142 million for Democrats. Democrats are spending more than Republicans in only nine of them.