Why Are Outside Groups Spending Millions So Early?

Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., speaks against the health carelaw outside the Supreme Court.  
National Journal
Scott Bland
See more stories about...
Scott Bland
Aug. 27, 2013, 3:30 p.m.

The League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters is not spend­ing its sum­mer con­serving cash.

More than 14 months ahead of the 2014 elec­tions, the in­flu­en­tial en­vir­on­ment­al group is spend­ing $2 mil­lion to air tele­vi­sion ads at­tack­ing four Re­pub­lic­ans as an­ti­science for their po­s­i­tions on cli­mate change. Just three years ago, that would have been more than one-third of LCV’s total 2010 elec­tion budget. One of its tar­gets, Sen. Ron John­son, R-Wis., won’t even be on the bal­lot un­til 2016.

The su­per­charged — and su­per early — ad­vocacy is em­blem­at­ic of pres­sure groups’ think­ing cre­at­ively about how they spend be­cause there is now so much oth­er spend­ing to com­pete with. Voters are less likely to no­tice one more ad jsut be­fore an elec­tion, with so much money and ad­vert­ising sat­ur­at­ing TV mar­kets, and PACs get less re­turn for their money. That’s also true in the most lit­er­al sense: The growth of cam­paign spend­ing right be­fore the elec­tion caused TV ad­vert­ising rates to double or even triple in some mar­kets in 2012.

So the League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters is filling the air­waves dur­ing what was once the sleepy sum­mer month of Au­gust.

“We’re ob­vi­ously not try­ing to de­feat Ron John­son right now,” said Nav­in Nayak, LCV’s seni­or vice pres­id­ent for cam­paigns. The group is also air­ing com­mer­cials in the dis­tricts of GOP Reps. Dan Ben­ishek of Michigan, Mike Coff­man of Col­or­ado, and Rod­ney Dav­is of Illinois. “A lot of what we’re try­ing to do, both on the elec­tion side and in this kind of cam­paign, is to demon­strate the polit­ic­al sa­li­ency of our is­sues…. We feel con­fid­ent that when con­stitu­ents find out their mem­bers are cli­mate den­iers, they’ll take a hit at home.”

Of course, LCV is able to do this only be­cause its own budget is big­ger than ever. The group spent less than $5.4 mil­lion in the 2010 elec­tion cycle, ac­cord­ing to totals col­lec­ted by the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics. Last year, it boos­ted its spend­ing above $14 mil­lion.

LCV isn’t alone in spend­ing more soon­er. A full-scale ad­vert­ising war has already broken out in Ken­tucky, where Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell is run­ning for reelec­tion in 2014, and out­side groups on both sides have already dropped more than $1 mil­lion. Two con­ser­vat­ive groups have spent over a half-mil­lion dol­lars in Arkan­sas beat­ing up Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mark Pry­or be­fore 2014, too.

For LCV’s pur­poses, cli­mate change is not ne­ces­sar­ily a mes­sage that would im­me­di­ately break through in the fren­zied blood­baths of late elec­tion-year com­mer­cial breaks. But if the en­vir­on­ment­al group can es­tab­lish the is­sue now, it can come back to the cli­mate theme in 2014 with a found­a­tion already laid if tar­geted mem­bers don’t change their views.

That’s es­pe­cially true since the growth in avail­able cam­paign cash means that spend­ing money isn’t ne­ces­sar­ily a zero-sum de­cision. LCV’s $2 mil­lion ex­pendit­ure doesn’t take that money away from cam­paigns next fall if it en­er­gizes the group’s donor base, Nayak said, point­ing to the group’s $1.3 mil­lion in spend­ing to elect Demo­crat­ic Sen. Ed­ward Mar­key in Mas­sachu­setts earli­er this year. LCV de­cided to spend big des­pite the state’s blue hue and the pro-Mar­key forces’ money ad­vant­age.

“Donors wanted to stand with him,” Nayak said. “Yes, it’s Mas­sachu­setts. But more donors un­der­stand that we have to play to make the case for why people should stand with us.”

Like­wise, if the money the Club for Growth and the Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund spent against Pry­or in any way helped con­vince Arkan­sas Rep. Tom Cot­ton that the race was win­nable, that early money is an in­vest­ment in 2014, not be­ing wasted in 2013. And as more money floods the polit­ic­al land­scape, groups are spread­ing it around long be­fore the elec­tion to gen­er­ate more im­pact.

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
7 REPUBLICANS ON STAGE
Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
2 days ago
THE LATEST

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.

Source:
×