Democrats aren't wasting any time in trying to define first and negatively a crop of House Republicans they want to knock off in 2012, launching new radio and Web ad campaigns in 19 swing districts just under three months after the midterm elections.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Monday released a list of 19 "targeted" Republican districts, heavy with freshmen and tea party favorites who swept into office in November on a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment — including Reps. Blake Farenthold of Texas 27th Congressional District, Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania's 11th and Robert Hurt of Virginia's 5th.
Most of the ads, which began airing during drive time Monday, criticize Republicans for supporting plans "to cut education and research by 40 percent," but in some cases the ads are tailored to specific congressmen.
In Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick's Pennsylvania 8th District, for example, the ads cites the freshman's failure to get to the official House swearing-in ceremony.
"Did you know Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick is under an ethics investigation for skipping his swearing-in to attend a fundraiser at the Capitol? Tell Fitzpatrick it's time to get to work for us," the ad's text reads.
And the ads aimed at Rep. David Rivera, Florida Republican, focus on his ongoing legal problems.
"Did you know Congressman David Rivera is under criminal investigation for receiving secret payments from his mothers company? Tell Rivera to come clean so he can finally get to work for us," the ad reads.
Rep. David Rivera, of Florida's 25th Congressional District, dismissed the DCCC criticisms Monday: "Obviously, the Democrat Party did not hear the message from voters this last election."
DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said the 19 districts on the list are "just a start," and he expects the list to grow to as many as 61 districts as the Democrats look to expand the playing field for the 2012 elections.
"As long as they're going to take votes in Washington that are out of touch with their constituents, we're going to hold them accountable," he said.
Some of the ads target Republicans, such as Mr. Rivera, who are off to a rocky start, while others are aimed at congressmen, such as Rep. Blake Farenthold in the 27th Congressional District of Texas, who won a razor-thin victories in districts that have historically backed Democrats.
Another target, freshman Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, New York Republican, said the jockeying for political positioning so soon after the last election "was not helpful," but she won't change how she serves. The congresswoman, on her way to a town hall meeting in her district Monday evening, said her constituents are backing her drive to rein in spending: "The feedback I've gotten so far is 'Do what we elected you to do. Stop spending away the futures of our children and grandchildren. "
Also on the list is high-profile Florida Rep. Allen West, who has been a lightning rod for Democratic Party critics of tea party-backed politicians.
Still, there were some surprising targets, including Virginia's 5th District, where Mr. Hurt reclaimed a seat that had been traditionally Republican.
Mr. Hurt beat freshman incumbent Rep. Tom Perriello in November, but the margin was close enough that Democrats think that President Obama's name on the ballot can make the difference in 2012.
Chris LaCivita, a spokesman for the congressman, was skeptical of the timing of the DCCC campaign: "It took one month for the liberal special interests to attack [Rep. Hurt] for keeping his promises to Central and Southside Virginians when it comes to voting to get our fiscal house in order.
"No amount of money spent can change the fact that while Democrats are doubling-down on more failed stimulus-style government spending, Robert Hurt is delivering on the message sent by 5th District Virginians to cut spending to create jobs, grow the economy, and reduce our nations unsustainable debt."
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