There wasn’t much doubt about this beforehand, but this week’s political advertising news confirms how Americans for Prosperity has taken control of the Senate and House landscapes. All over the country, Democrats have been forced to react to the well-funded nonprofit’s moves, which even have some Republicans guessing.
— AFP’s perch in the driver’s seat has been especially clear of late. AFP doubled its spending against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) last week with a $700,000 buy, at which point the Democratic outside group Patriot Majority jumped in again versus Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR). Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s (D-LA) striking decision to drop $2.6 million on TV in the spring about equaled what AFP had previously spent against her. (The group then upped its investment.) And Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) took direct aim at AFP and the Koch brothers in his first TV ad AFP also fired the first (million-dollar) salvo in Colorado this week.
— It’s not just the Senate landscape, either. House-focused Democrats are playing defense against AFP more than anything else right now. After spending 2013 poking at potentially vulnerbale GOP incumbents like Mike Coffman, Joe Heck, and Steve Southerland, sometimes drawing an AFP response, House Majority PAC has spent 2014 chasing AFP into Arizona, Florida, and West Virginia to mitigate damage from attacks against Democratic lawmakers. In Rep. Nick Rahall‘s WV-03, another Koch-connected group’s ads on coal have also seriously damaged the longtime incumbent.
— AFP’s individual ad buys have occasionally puzzled Republican strategists eyeing the House, too, with a few wondering where the group was during the FL-13 special election. But they’re happy with the results: Some Dems are taking damage, and it’s forcing them to spend resources now.
The usual suspects — the party committees, Crossroads, etc. — have barely gotten involved in independent expenditures yet, and things may change as the election draws nearer and more advertising comes online. But for now, AFP appears to be in charge.
— Scott Bland
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