Fiscal cliff politics: Dems target GOP House members

Welcome to the 'permanent campaign'

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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running radio and Web ads that target 21 vulnerable Republican House members for “holding the middle class hostage” during the fiscal cliff negotiations.

The campaign is a bit unusual — most parties prefer to run ads a bit nearer to an actual election.

“It’s not really common to see much Democratic or Republican congressional spending this soon after an election,” said Michael Franz of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks and analyzes campaign advertising. “The permanent campaign is really here.”

As part of its “GOP Hostage Takers” campaign, the DCCC is targeting U.S. representatives with radio and web ads called the “Holiday Cliff,” which look and sound like mock movie trailers, complete with a car hurtling off a winding mountain road.

“This holiday season, if you make only one phone call, if you send only one email, tell Congressman Chris Gibson — don’t drive us off the cliff,” the narrator says.

In addition to Gibson, R-N.Y., the DCCC has targeted five other Republican representatives with video ads — Gary Miller of California, Dan Webster of Florida, Tom Latham of Iowa, John Kline of Minnesota and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

All six are considered vulnerable in 2014 according to Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Eleven of the 15 members targeted in the radio ads are also beatable, according to the Center.

“The ads are about the here and now, not just about 2014,” Sabato told the Center in an email. “But no doubt they are also intended to send a message about the next election, that what the members do now will not be forgotten in two years.”

“It’s more of a warning to a member of Congress that, ‘Hey you’re in our sights. You better think carefully about this vote,’” said Travis Ridout, also of the Wesleyan Media Project.

A press release from the DCCC says the legislators were targeted for their refusal to sign a discharge petition to allow the House to vote on extending tax cuts for the middle class, a measure the Senate approved.

A discharge petition is an administrative tactic used to force a vote on a bill that is stuck in committee. In this case, it is the House version of the Senate’s bill to extend tax cuts on all but the wealthiest Americans.

The petition has 182 signatures. It needs 218 to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. No Republicans have signed.

A DCCC spokesman declined to comment on how much the ad campaign costs.

The DCCC spent more than $180 million on the 2012 election and had $2.5 million in the bank as of Nov. 26, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Crossroads GPS, a conservative nonprofit, is targeting vulnerable Democratic senators for not wanting to cut safety net programs.

Others groups, such as labor unions, AARP, big business groups and the anti-debt advocacy organization “Fix the Debt” are also airing ads.

The cliff the ads refer to occurs Jan. 1, 2013 when mandatory cuts in spending and the elimination of tax breaks are scheduled to kick in. Without a compromise between the two parties, it is feared the nation will slip into a recession.