Democratic super PAC targets 10 GOP representatives

January 31, 2013

The top Democratic super PAC focused on the House of Representatives has picked its first set of targets for the 2014 cycle, assembling a list of vulnerable lawmakers the group will seek to weaken over the next year in order to lay the groundwork for a strong midterm challenge.

House Majority PAC will run off-year political programs in the districts of 10 GOP lawmakers it hopes to knock off in 2014, a strategist for the outside group told POLITICO. That means running ads on the airwaves and online, as well as working social networks and local media in advance of the general election.

The strategy reflects the long road Democrats face to retake the House. While they have a handful of inviting takeover opportunities, they would need to win some tougher, Republican-leaning districts to net the 17 seats needed to flip control of the chamber.

That means investing in districts well in advance of the summer of 2014, when campaign and outside-group spending will escalate dramatically.

House Majority PAC’s initial targets include Minnesota Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline, Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, New York Rep. Michael Grimm, Nevada Rep. Joe Heck, Ohio Rep. David Joyce and Florida Rep. Steve Southerland.

Many of those members represent suburban toss-up districts – places where campaigns are expensive, but where some Democrats have been competitive in statewide elections. Several of the seats have substantial minority populations, including a sizable Hispanic presence in the Heck and Coffman districts, and a significant African-American population in the Southerland and Davis districts.

The tenth Republican on the list is California Rep. Gary Miller, whom House Majority PAC spokesman Andy Stone dubbed “the most endangered Republican incumbent in the country.”

Miller may be the closest thing to a Republican pushover on the House map. He faced likely defeat last year after his district was redrawn, but won a reprieve when California’s new top-two “jungle” primary system failed to produce a Democratic challenger for the general election. He dispatched a Republican opponent, Bob Dutton, in November.

Democratic super PACs played an influential role in 2012, but only later in the cycle as their fundraising accelerated and their political operations ramped up to full speed. This is the first campaign in which super PACs on the Democratic side will have the opportunity to play at this scale so early in the election cycle.

House Majority PAC officials said the 10-person target list will expand as the midterm cycle advances. The group spent nearly $36 million in over 50 races last year.
In a statement to POLITICO, House Majority PAC executive director Alixandria Lapp said the early rollout of a takeover list shows the group is “ready to hit the ground running to hold these Republicans accountable and communicate with swing voters about their extreme records and backward priorities.”

“Whether it’s supporting the end of Medicare as we know it, backing tax cuts for the wealthy, working to roll back the clock on women’s rights or opposing stem cell research, these Republicans are simply out of step with the districts they represent. House Majority PAC will work to ensure voters know the truth,” she said.

Republicans, too, have begun to broadcast their plans for the 2014 House battle. While the GOP already has a solid majority in the House, the National Republican Congressional Committee has signaled it believes there’s still room to grow.

In a memo earlier this month, NRCC executive director Liesl Hickey identified Arizona Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber, Georgia Rep. John Barrow, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre, Utah Rep. Jim Matheson and West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall as beatable Democrats.

Those are largely seats Republicans have tried hard to win in the past, but where moderate Democrats have beat the odds in recent cycles.

“Our efforts will begin with seven districts that are currently held by Democrats that have voted Republican in all three of the last presidential elections,” Hickey wrote. “These Democrats all share something in common: They do not fit their districts.”

Republican outside groups have not yet detailed whether – or where – they will work to undercut Democratic incumbents in the run-up to the midterm campaign.