The Democrats 'Prepare' the 2008 Battlefield

White House Isn't the Only Campaign to Watch Next Year

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Evan Tracey Evan Tracey
When a military general says his forces are "preparing the battlefield" he means they're bombarding the enemy before he sends in the troops. So with all eyes on the 2008 presidential race, one of the under-reported stories seems to be the preparation of the House and Senate battlefields by the Democrats and their support groups. Just because Democrats have their sights set on the White House in 2008, that doesn't mean they're taking their majorities in the House and Senate for granted. Democrats and their supporting groups have been quietly making significant ad buys in media markets with vulnerable Republicans and newly elected Democrats.

This strategy is wide-ranging and includes a number of topics and groups, with a parade of ads from groups like Americans United for Change, a number of labor unions touting Democratic leadership on issues such as minimum wage and healthcare and anti-war groups like Vote Vets and targeting candidates for their support for the war in Iraq.

So far, the focus of this spending is in the key upcoming Senate races in states like New Hampshire, Maine and Minnesota. The ads there are designed to put pressure on recent votes on Iraq, as well as serve the purpose of softening up incumbents for the 2008 race, when Democrats hope to increase their margin in the Senate. Recently, these combined efforts have amounted to more than $1.3 million in spending, targeting senators like Republicans Susan Collins in Maine and John Sununu in New Hampshire, and more than $1.5 million on ads supporting newly elected Democratic members such as Reps. Steven Kagen in Wisconsin, Heath Shuler in North Carolina, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York while continuing to pressure a number of GOP holdovers such as Heather Wilson in New Mexico.

The ad messages are currently reinforcing key Democratic themes of change and a new direction in Washington that began in 2006. Thus far, Republicans and their supporting groups have made little or no TV efforts to defend incumbents or target competitive House and Senate seats. This may be a gamble when you consider the amount of ads and messages that will likely turn many of these media markets into echo chambers next fall.

These advertising dollars may ultimately amount to little more than a rounding error in the final 2008 ad spending tally. However, it may also turn out to be an important strategic investment as we approach November of 2008.