Coming soon to TV: local House campaigns

In a few weeks, get ready for our local Congressional races to hit your TV.

Republicans have purchased $1.8 million in ads for House races in the Philadelphia region from Oct. 19 to Nov. 6. Democrats, who have the tougher task of unseating incumbents who have largely been made safer by redistricting, have $3.6 million of air time ready to roll out in a similar time frame.

(Ad purchases are public records).

Democrats see the GOP ad purchases as a sign that Republicans are concerned about defending their local seats, though the air time was first reserved months ago, so they don't necessarily reflect any recent changes in dynamics. Still, Politico reported earlier this summer that the Philly-area buy was one of the GOP Congressional campaign's largest. That probably partly reflects the cost of TV time in this area, but also the potential for several close contests.

Democrats are pushing for gains in the House by targeting four suburban Republicans in our area: Jon Runyan in South Jersey, and Mike Fitzpatrick, Patrick Meehan and Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania districts just outside Philly. (We had an overview of the contests on Sunday.)

Republicans know some of these races could be tight, but have projected a confident posture. The executive director of the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, Guy Harrison, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in August that "we don't have to play defense" in the Philly-area, which would allow Republicans to spend resources elsewhere.

Despite that pronouncement, though, they had obviously long expected to put money into our region. Their Philly-area ad buy was reported as early as June.

Even if you're confident of winning, you still have to do some basic due diligence on behalf of your candidates, and have air time reserved to respond in case of surprises or attacks that gain traction. And operatives on all sides agree that some of the races could be close, particulary Fitzpatrick's race against Kathy Boockvar.

Democrats think the ads are a sign their campaigns are working. They have a few recent factors in their favor: news that the GOP has scaled back its efforts in Pennsylvania and President Obama's lead in the state (in most polls anyway).

We'll see in the next few weeks if the races stay tight enough for a finishing kick on the air to make the difference.