Democrats Launch First ’08 Congressional Attack Ad

By Jennifer Parker

Jul 14, 2008 6:46pm

ABC News’ Karen Travers Reports: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has purchased ad time in Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District targeting Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, the Republican challenger who is looking to unseat Democratic Rep. Paul Kanjorski.

This is the first ad of the general election cycle from the DCCC, which has already reserved advertising time in 31 congressional districts at the cost of about $35-million. Those ad buys are scheduled to begin airing on television between early September and early October and run through Election Day.

The DCCC ad in Pennsylvania ties Barletta to President George W. Bush, stating that Bush has a friend in Pennsylvania in the Republican challenger. It begins running on Scranton-area television stations on Tuesday and is scheduled to stay up for several weeks.

A DCCC official confirms the ad was shipped to stations in Pennsylvania today and will begin airing tomorrow.

Kanjorski could be in for a tough battle against the Hazleton mayor The 12-term congressman is the second-longest serving Member from Pennsylvania (after Rep. John Murtha) and has never won a race by fewer than 13 percentage points. The two are familiar opponents – Kanjorski beat Barletta in the 2002 election.

Kanjorski was the first House Democrat to go on the air with ads, purchasing time on local affiliates in the Scranton PA area last month. 

“I think we’re not taking anything for granted and I presume neither is the DCCC and we’re going to fight a hard campaign here,” Kanjorski spokesman Mitchell told ABC News. “The Democrats have a tremendous financial advantage, so why do you want to get to October and say, ‘Holy mackerel, we’ve got a race!?’ You want to put it to bed as soon as you can and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Democrats expect this race will be competitive but note that Kanjorski is well known, having served 12 terms in Congress, and has a significant financial advantage over Barletta (more than 5-1).

“We have been aggressive all cycle, acting early and often. This is no different,” DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell said. “Lou Barletta is trying to mislead voters and we will not allow him to undergo an extreme makeover about his strong support of President Bush’s failed economic policies, tax cuts for the rich, and privatizing Social Security.”

Republicans see in this race a real (and rare) opportunity to pick up a Democratic seat. The race could boil down to a referendum on Kanjorski’s 24 years in Washington, which Republicans feel will only help their candidate.

“Democrats in Washington are clearly worried about having to defend Paul Kanjorski’s multitude of gaffes and unethical transgressions,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain said. “After all, this is the same Congressman who admitted to using the war in Iraq for political gain, has opposed securing our borders, and whose seemingly corrupt behavior has come under heavy public scrutiny. Representing everything that is wrong with Washington tends to make a politician vulnerable.”

The $35 million the DCCC has reserved for advertising in the fall is divided evenly among Democratic incumbent seats, Republican incumbent seats and open seats, according to figures obtained by ABC News. The DCCC will buy ad time in 11 districts with Democratic incumbents (totaling $10.8 million), nine districts with Republican incumbents (totaling $9 million ) and 11 districts where there are open seats (totaling $13.5 million). On the high end, House Democrats have set aside $1.7 million in two districts in Arizona – Republican Rick Renzi’s open seat (AZ-01) and incumbent Democrat Harry Mitchell’s seat.

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