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DCCC Begins Air Attack

Memorial Day Weekend Ads Target Republican Incumbents

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing radio ads in a dozen Congressional districts over the Memorial Day weekend, accusing Republican incumbents of not putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to supporting U.S. troops.

The ad highlights the Members’ recent vote against a procedural motion that would have expanded a military health insurance program to members of the Reserves and National Guard. Currently the TRICARE program is only available to those men and women on active duty in the armed forces.

“Last week, Congress defeated a plan to extend health coverage to members of the Guard and Reserves and their families,” an announcer says in the ad, which rotates in the name of each local lawmaker. “Congressman [insert name] was among those who voted to deny these heroes the health care they deserve. Tell Congressman [insert name] he owes those who serve our nation more than Memorial Day speeches.”

The spot also features a testimonial from Maj. Gen. John Havens, a retired adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard.

As of Friday, the ads were set to run in 12 districts across the country and will continue airing into this week. The spots mark the first paid advertising by any of the party campaign committees this cycle.

The Republicans targeted by the 60-second spots are: Reps. Vito Fossella (N.Y.), John Hostettler (Ind.), Sam Graves (Mo.), Tim Murphy (Pa.), Bob Ney (Ohio), Richard Pombo (Calif.), Dave Reichert (Wash.), Rick Renzi (Ariz.), Rob Simmons (Conn.), Mike Sodrel (Ind.), Charles Taylor (N.C.) and Ed Whitfield (Ky.).

All 12 voted against a motion to recommit the fiscal 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed by the House on Wednesday.

“It’s a situation where their words do not match their actions in Congress,” DCCC spokesman Bill Burton said. “We’re just letting people know.”

Burton declined to discuss specifics about the ad buy, such as total cost and saturation level.

“It’s a strategic buy,” Burton said.

The ad was produced by David Axelrod of the Chicago-based Democratic firm Axelrod and Associates.

While several of the Republicans — including Renzi, Taylor, Hostettler and Simmons — have been perennially targeted for defeat, the list also includes some unusual suspects.

Specifically, Pombo, Whitfield and Fossella have never faced tough re-election races and do not represent districts where they would be considered particularly vulnerable.

President Bush won all three of the districts in last year’s presidential race, taking 63 percent of the vote in Whitfield’s Bluegrass State district and 54 percent in Pombo’s Central Valley seat.

Although Bush won 55 percent in Fossella’s district, Democrats have been actively trying to recruit a challenger in the Staten Island-based seat, believing that the four-term Congressman is vulnerable. The committee recently conducted a poll in Fossella’s district, which Democratic officials believe buttresses their argument that he can be defeated, although they have not released the results.

The DCCC is also working to find a candidate to run against Ney, who party strategists believe is at risk because of his ties to controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Burton indicated the targeted ads were only the committee’s first step in expanding the number of competitive races in next year’s mid-term elections.

“There’s going to be a big playing field in 2006,” Burton said.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Carl Forti laughed at that idea, noting that the three previous DCCC chairmen have made similar promises to make gains with little result. House Democrats currently face a 29-seat deficit.

“A lot of people have said how smart [DCCC Chairman] Rahm Emanuel [Ill.] is and what a tactician he is,” Forti said. “Clearly, based on this list, those people are dead wrong.”

Forti also noted that the DCCC is currently $4 million in debt from last cycle and called into question the Democrats’ decision “to spend some of their nonexistent funds some 18 months away from the election.”

“It’s great strategy,” he said sarcastically.

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