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DCCC reserves millions in AZ ad time

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved $3.4 million in advertising time in two Arizona districts, flexing its financial muscle at a time when national Republicans do not have the same ability.

By reserving advertising time, Democrats have secured lower rates for purchasing up to 4,400 points in both the First and Fifth Congressional Districts. In the First District, former State Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is seen as Democrats' best chance at picking up a Republican-held seat in Arizona, as she seeks to replace retiring Rep. Rick Renzi, while in the Fifth District, incubment freshman Democrat Harry Mitchell faces a stable of possible Republican challengers.

A "point" is a unit of measuring the number of times an advertisement is seen on television. The average television viewer will see an advertisement once per every 100 points purchased. While the typical car dealer might buy perhaps a few hundred points, a 2,000-point buy is considered saturation level. That means Democrats have reserved two weeks of saturation-level advertising for both districts, though the party can spread their advertising out over a period of months.

The DCCC is legally separated into two divisions, the so-called independent expenditure side and the coordinated side. The coordinated side, which recruits candidates, assists with fundraising and organizational efforts and conducts polls, cannot be aware of what the independent expenditure side, which controls its own budget to run advertisements for and against candidates, is doing. Because of the legal barrier, spokespeople for the DCCC, all of whom are on the coordinated side, could not comment on the advertising buys.

The $1.7 million per district, which will be spread between Phoenix and Flagstaff media markets, is a benefit for Democrats that Republicans simply will not enjoy this year. Through the end of May, the DCCC had $47.1 million in the bank, while its GOP counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee, held only $6.65 million in reserves. The reservations in Arizona are part of a first wave of such moves, which nationally will cost Democrats up to $34.5 million in 31 districts stretching from Alaska to New Hampshire to Florida.

National Democrats, though, are not required to shell out the money to actually pay for the advertising. By reserving time, they are simply locking in a lower rate per point, in advance of commercial and other political purchases. In several instances, other districts targeted by Democrats are likely to enter the campaign homestretch either having been virtually won already or having gotten so far out of reach that the party would be wasting money by advertising. In those cases, Democrats can simply cancel the reservations and move resources elsewhere.

The ad buys show which districts national Democrats think are vulnerable to takeover by both parties. Of the 31 seats in which the DCCC reserved advertising time, nine seats are occupied by Republican incumbents seeking re-election, while 10 are seats held by retiring Republicans. Mitchell is one of 11 Democrats seen as vulnerable enough to need national help, and Democrats are also advertising in one seat featuring their own retiring incumbent.

While Republicans have suggested Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Eighth District is up for grabs, thanks to a strong challenge from state Senate President Tim Bee, Democrats seem to be less worried. Also left off the list is the Third District, where Republican Rep. John Shadegg is running against a well-funded challenger in attorney Bob Lord who national Democrats have added to the presigious Red to Blue program. Both districts could be targets of advertising dollars from both parties down the road.

Candidates in both targeted districts have raised impressive amounts of money so far. In advance of next week's financial disclosure reporting deadline, Kirkpatrick's campaign announced she would report having raised $329,000 and retained $669,000 on hand. Mitchell has yet to release his fundraising reports for the period between April 1 and June 30, but with $1.1 million on hand through the end of March, Mitchell was one of the best-funded freshmen Democrats in the country.

Kirkpatrick is not the only candidate running for the Democratic nomination, though. First, she has to make it through the September primary against attorney and activist Howard Shanker, former television reporter Mary Kim Titla and activist Jeffrey Brown. Still, national Democrats have made it clear which candidate they favor, having added Kirkpatrick to the Red to Blue program. Last week, Titla announced she had raised $53,000 in the second quarter.

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