FIRST ON CNN: House GOP campaign arm goes online in the blame game over forced spending cuts
As the impact of the forced spending cuts begins to kick in around the country, the blame game for who is responsible for the so-called "sequester" is filtering into Congressional campaigns on the web. House Republicans are running web banner ads criticizing 20 House Democrats who represent swing districts for not stopping what they call "Obama's sequester."
The House GOP's campaign arm cites these Democrats' opposition to the Republican plan to replace the across-the-board cuts as equivalent to backing the cuts.
The strategy to target Democrats on local news websites is part of a continuing push by the National Republican Congressional Committee to pair digital with traditional media. A senior GOP campaign aide tells CNN this is the "first wave" using this kind of advertising in the 2014 cycle, but there will be more to come. After the 2012 presidential election, many Republicans conceded that President Obama's campaign outmaneuvered the GOP online, and they have put an increased emphasis online, hiring a bigger staff and using resources to focus messaging on the web.
Recently Obama's former campaign arm, Organizing for Action, paid for web banner ads in a campaign targeting GOP Members to support background checks for guns.
In one of the new NRCC web ads the National Republican Congressional Committee argues Arizona Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick supports the automatic spending cuts, but "wont cut funding for robotic squirrels."
Another targets Democratic Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota as not willing to "cut funding for a musical on climate change" as support for "Obama's sequester."
NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek said, "Because of their insistence on higher taxes and their refusal to cut wasteful spending, these Democrats are subjecting the country to irresponsible cuts."
The NRCC won't provide specific figures for how much the web ads cost, but they are expected to run for a few days. These ads are more cost effective than traditional print, radio or TV, and can be purchased in bulk with one buy pinpointing several media markets at a time.
But while the GOP blames Democrats for opposing their plan, this wave of ads does include a number of freshmen House Democratic members who didn't serve in the House the last time there was a vote on that House Republican bill. And while both sides attempt to shift the blame to the other for any damaging economic effects of the sequester, the vote for the debt deal in 2011 that included the cuts was supported by both Democrats and Republicans.
While they work to pin the blame on Democrats for these cuts Republicans realize that their own GOP members who serve in competitive districts could be vulnerable on this issue. Last month the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rolled out an effort to brand 27 House GOP members as responsible for job losses. The campaign also used paid web advertising that argued "your pink slip -- brought to you by House Republicans."
But those GOP members know the fallout could be politically harmful so they have been working to show they are open to bipartisan ways to replace the cuts as Democrats and the president attempt to paint the GOP as primarily to blame.
Republican Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia, who represents a district that is home to major military installations in the Norfolk and Virginia Beach areas and has faced competitive races before, has been open to closing tax loopholes and pushing what he calls "a responsible solution" to replace the forced budget cuts.
"We've found in all these fights that rather than be in a defensive mode, our members need to be out there on offensive. We know the President has a bigger microphone," Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for the NRCC told CNN.