WASHINGTON - House Democrats have reserved millions of dollars worth of television advertising in 31 congressional races in all corners of the country, according to documentation that provides an early roadmap of the party's drive to strengthen its majority in the fall elections.
The list includes 19 seats currently in Republican hands, from Connecticut to Alaska, with two each in Ohio and New Mexico. It also reflects a determination on the part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to protect its own first-term incumbents in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and elsewhere.
In all, the documentation obtained by The Associated Press shows the DCCC has reserved nearly $35 million in advertising to begin in September and October.
Political parties and candidates frequently reserve advertising time in advance to obtain a lower price from television stations than might be available later. Final decisions on spending are normally made closer to the elections.
Democrats hold a 235-199 majority in the House, with one vacancy, and even Republicans concede they are unlikely to regain control in a political environment in which President Bush is unpopular and voters say they want change.
The GOP has lost special elections in recent months in three districts in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi long in their hands. A recent review commissioned by the party's leadership concluded that traditional Republican campaign themes no longer appear effective in swaying voters.
Additionally, the Democratic committee reported more than $47 million in the bank at the end of May. The Republican counterpart group had $6.7 million.
The Democratic advertising targets include Republican Reps. Don Young of Alaska, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, Chris Shays of Connecticut, Tom Feeney of Florida, Tim Wahlberg and Joe Knollenberg of Michigan, Robin Hayes of North Carolina, Jon Porter of Nevada and Steve Chabot of Ohio.
Some in the group, including Shays, Hayes and Chabot, have been targeted before but survived. Young is under an ethics cloud and faces a difficult primary challenge.
Democrats also have reserved advertising time for two Ohio seats where Republicans intend to retire, and two more in New Mexico. Other targets where GOP lawmakers are stepping down are in Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.
By contrast, Democrats have reserved time for only one seat where a member of their own rank and file is retiring, a seat in Oregon.
Democratic incumbents whose districts are targeted for help include Reps. Harry Mitchell of Arizona, Tim Mahoney of Florida, Baron Hill of Indiana, Nancy Boyda of Kansas, John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Don Cazayoux of Louisiana, Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Nick Lampson and Ciro Rodriguez of Texas, and Steve Kagen of Wisconsin.