Senate Democrats Reserve Airtime in Critical Mountain States

Bennet's challenger will be decided tonight. (Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

The Senate Democrats’ campaign wing is reserving about $9 million in two states critical to their hopes of reclaiming the majority next year, marking the committee’s first major fall ad buys.

In both cases, Senate Democrats are reserving airtime to defend seats they already control. The DSCC has reserved $5 million in airtime in Colorado, where Sen. Michael Bennet is running for re-election, and $4 million in airtime in Nevada, where Democrats are defending the seat Minority Leader Harry Reid is vacating.

Bennet will face the winner of the June 28 primary, in which five little-known Republicans are fighting for the nomination. In Nevada, former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) is likely to face Rep. Joe Heck (R), who must survive his own June 14 primary contest against former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R).

The reservations, which will cover the final weeks of a campaign, were confirmed by a Democrat with direct knowledge of the early moves.

Reserving airtime is not the same as actually buying individual spots; committees and campaigns can cancel the reservations at any moment, and they don’t have to send actual money to the television stations on which the ads will run until just days before those ads will actually hit the airwaves.

But locking in reservations early allows a committee to secure favorable rates, and to reserve choice spots during prime time and on popular shows.

And making those reservations early is going to be especially critical this year, when many of the key Senate battlegrounds overlap with the presidential contest. Both parties will fight over Senate seats in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where competition from the two presidential nominees, national political parties and outside groups are likely to drive ad prices to new heights.

Already, ad prices in Denver have risen by about 10 percent in recent weeks, according to another Democrat tracking the advertising market; prices are up 15 percent in Las Vegas over the same period.

The DSCC ended February with $15.2 million in the bank, according to the committee’s latest filing with the Federal Election Commission. They have not reported their total haul for March yet.

Morning Consult