Political parties spend $225 million on targeted races

Monday, November 6th 2006, 6:07 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) National committees for the Republicans and Democrats have spent about $225 million for or against candidates, concentrating their resources in 10 Senate races and 66 House contests that could determine who controls Congress.

The data is based on a review of independent spending reports filed with the Federal Election Commission as of Monday. Republicans spent about $81 million in 53 congressional districts, mostly on television advertising opposing Democratic challengers. Democrats spent $64 million in 56 congressional districts, most of them represented by a Republican.

In Senate contests, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has trained its sights on seats currently held by Republicans in Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Rhode Island, Montana and Arizona. Republicans are aiming for three Democratic-held seats in New Jersey, Maryland and Michigan.

The parties have spent little or no money in Pennsylvania, where Republican Sen. Rick Santorum has trailed Democrat Bob Casey Jr., for months.

The spending data illustrates the difficulties facing Republicans in this elections, where they have been forced to defend seats instead of aggressively seeking to defeat incumbent Democrats. Midterm elections in second-term presidencies are notoriously harsh on the ruling party. For Republicans, growing public antipathy toward the war in Iraq has made their hold on Congress even more tenuous.

Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate to capture control of Congress. The last time Democrats had majorities in both chambers was 1994.

The spending for House seats has been mostly concentrated in the Ohio Valley. Ten Republicans are vulnerable in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. Another 10 are fending off strong challenges in Pennsylvania and New York.

Many independent groups, including labor, business and ideological organizations, are spending in some of the same contests that have attracted party money. The Missouri Senate race between incumbent Sen. Jim Talent and Democrat Claire McCaskill has attracted the most money, with parties and independent groups spending more than $20 million in the state.

The House race that has seen the most spending is a rematch between Pennsylvania Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach and Democrat Lois Murphy. Their district sits in southeastern Pennsylvania, nestled in the hills that run from the outer Philadelphia suburbs to the old industrial city of Reading. The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent $3.9 million, mostly in ads against Murphy, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $3 million against Gerlach.