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Campaign Spending Trends Reveal GOP and Democratic Strategies

With midterm elections nearly three weeks away, both the Democratic and Republican parties have raised millions of dollars for their House and Senate candidates' campaigns. Political reporters analyze who is contributing money and its influence on the election.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    With Election Day just three weeks away, the national Republican and Democratic parties are facing some tough choices. Both parties raised hundreds of millions of dollars to prepare for these midterm elections. And their House and Senate campaign committees are using the money to fund TV ads, mailings and phone banks on behalf of selected candidates.

    There have been some shifts in their spending patterns in recent days that tell us something about where each party thinks its prospects stand. Here to tell us about all this are Jim VandeHei, political correspondent for the Washington Post, and Adam Nagourney, chief political correspondent for the New York Times.

    Adam and Jim, welcome.

    You have both had stories in recent days that the Republicans in particular are redirecting their spending. Give us the big picture, Jim.

  • JIM VANDEHEI, Political Reporter, Washington Post:

    Well, what's happening here is Republicans are looking at the landscape, and they're basically pulling back from investing in trying to defeat Democrats. They've calculated that maybe there's one or two Democrats that they can beat, but what they're saying is that, "We see a wave coming. What we have to do is build shelters around enough incumbents and enough open seats to salvage the 15-seat majority." Remember, Democrats have to win 15 seats to win back the majority.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    And you're talking about the House there?

  • JIM VANDEHEI:

    Win the House majority. And so what they're doing is they're doing every single thing they can to try to make sure that, at the very least, they walk away with a three- or four-seat majority, because the conversation has changed. Republicans, when you're talking about the House, no longer think that they can win seats. They think they're going to lose at least six to 12.

  • The question is:

    Can they spend enough money and focus that in a narrow amount of markets where they can at least keep maybe a two- or three-seat margin?

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But as part of that, you reported that they have pulled back from some members that they were going to try to protect, kind of writing them off?

  • JIM VANDEHEI:

    Oh, absolutely. You see it happening in Ohio in the Senate race. And you also see it happening in a lot of these House races. Look at Indiana, where you have polls showing three Republican incumbents in a lot of trouble, in some cases down double digits. And they're saying you have to start thinking, you know, can we salvage these districts or do we have to move on and do we have to try to protect these guys, say, in the suburban districts in Pennsylvania?