The Shrinking Congressional Battleground”“in One Map

Both parties have relatively few opportunities to pick up new seats this year.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 28: The dome of the U.S. Capitol is seen on Capitol Hill August 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. It has been reported that the dome has 1,300 known cracks and breaks leaking water to the interior of the Rotunda and needs restorations. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $61 million before the August recess to repair the structure. On Monday, Committee on Rules and Administration chairman Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) called on Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) to support the repairs. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Scott Bland
Add to Briefcase
Scott Bland
June 29, 2014, 4:38 p.m.

The last four elec­tions have been un­usu­ally tu­mul­tu­ous ones for the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives. There were Demo­crat­ic waves in 2006 and 2008 that swept dozens of Re­pub­lic­ans out of of­fice. In 2010, a Re­pub­lic­an wave dis­placed an even great­er num­ber of Demo­crats. And in 2012, the decen­ni­al re­draw­ing of con­gres­sion­al dis­trict lines up­rooted more in­cum­bents of both parties.

The res­ult? A well-“sor­ted” House where there will be re­l­at­ively few op­por­tun­it­ies, com­pared with re­cent years, for the parties to pick up new seats in 2014.

An early look at where House Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans plan to spend mil­lions of dol­lars on TV ad­vert­ising in the fall helps meas­ure that. The parties will likely dir­ect more money in­to few­er dis­tricts this elec­tion than last, an in­dic­a­tion of how the House map has shrunk — and how can­did­ates in the few re­main­ing House battle­grounds could be about to see more out­side spend­ing than ever.

Between them, the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee and the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee have already re­served about $74 mil­lion worth of TV ad­vert­ising time across the coun­try for fall House cam­paigns, slightly more than they’d re­served at this time two years ago. But the party com­mit­tees spread those ini­tial re­ser­va­tions over about 60 dis­tricts in 2012. This year, that num­ber is 41.

Buy­ing Time

Buying Time

Rollover the circles in the map be­low to see which House dis­tricts the NR­CC and DCCC have tar­geted for tele­vi­sion ad­vert­ising.

There are many sim­il­ar­it­ies between this map and what it would have looked like two years ago. Ari­zona, where Demo­crat­ic Reps. Ann Kirk­patrick, Ron Barber, and Kyrsten Sinema all won swing dis­tricts in 2012, will be a ma­jor battle­ground again. The situ­ation is sim­il­ar in Cali­for­nia. But a num­ber of key dis­tricts from 2012 in areas such as Ken­tucky, North Car­o­lina, and west­ern Pennsylvania have fallen off the map since then.

It’s im­port­ant to note that these spend­ing fig­ures and loc­a­tions are not fi­nal. The com­mit­tees will spend a lot more money in many of these dis­tricts, and they’ll end up can­celing their spend­ing in a few while adding more tar­gets later on. One of many po­ten­tial ex­amples is in Nevada, where both parties may end up spend­ing money in the race for the seat held by Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Joe Heck. But neither side has signaled its in­ten­tion yet, per­haps be­cause there are few ma­jor races in the state this year and ad­vert­ising rates aren’t ex­pec­ted to rise much between now and the fall.

But the House map ex­pan­ded and con­trac­ted after the early re­ser­va­tions in 2012, too. The point is that both parties are out­lining a smal­ler play­ing field from the start this time. Part of the reas­on is that there are few­er “split dis­tricts” — areas that voted for one party’s pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate and the oth­er party’s con­gres­sion­al can­did­ate — than ever be­fore in mod­ern polit­ics, at about two dozen. Those are the most nat­ur­al areas to ex­pect hard-fought cam­paigns. But even as the num­ber of battle­grounds has shrunk, every in­dic­a­tion is that spend­ing rates will keep rising.

An­drew Ro­man­off, a Demo­crat­ic House can­did­ate from Col­or­ado, may have put it best a few months ago when he told Na­tion­al Journ­al, “I feel a little like a ped­es­tri­an in a Godz­illa movie.” For Ro­man­off and the few can­did­ates con­test­ing battle­ground dis­tricts in 2014, that feel­ing will only in­tensi­fy in the fall.

Brian McGill contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
WITH LIVE BLOGGING
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
4 hours ago
STAFF PICKS

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Source:
SOUND LEVEL AFFECTED
Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Source:
TRUMP VS. CHEFS
Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Source:
A CANDIDATE TO BE ‘PROUD’ OF
Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

FUNERAL FOR ISRAELI LEADER
Obama Compares Peres to ‘Giants of the 20th Century’
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Speaking at the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, President Obama "compared Peres to 'other giants of the 20th century' such as Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth who 'find no need to posture or traffic in what's popular in the moment.'" Among the 6,000 mourners at the service was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama called Abbas's presence a sign of the "unfinished business of peace" in the region.

Source:
×