Republicans, Democrats cut ad buys in 10th District

By Joe Beck

Decisions by the Democratic and Republican national congressional committees late last week to cut ad spending sharply in the 10th Congressional District jolted the campaigns of Del. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, and Democrat John Foust, but the two sides differed on what it means for their chances of winning.

Comstock’s campaign trumpeted the twin decisions as signaling that Foust’s campaign is losing altitude while hers is on the rise. A pair of neutral academic observers agreed that the loss of advertising dollars in the closing weeks of the campaign helps Comstock and hurts Foust, although Comstock remains no more than a slight favorite in a race that has been a top priority for both national parties.

Foust’s campaign manager, Shaun Daniels, insisted that what he described as “conventional wisdom” about the ad expenditures was wrong, and the related press coverage has been “unfair” and “inaccurate.”

The sequence of events began when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee canceled $2.8 million in ad spending in the 10th District and shifted it toward a freshman Democrat from California who faces a strong Republican challenger.

The National Republican Congressional Committee quickly followed suit by disclosing that it was scrapping $1.3 million in support of Comstock. The Republican money is being diverted to the same California race targeted by the Democratic campaign committee.

Susan Falconer, Comstock’s campaign manager, said the spending decisions reflected the diverging fortunes of the two candidates.

“We have found that voters are rejecting John Foust’s negative attacks and tax raising agenda,” Falconer said in an email. “The DCCC finally figured that out, too, and pulled $2.8 million out of the race.”

Falconer added that Comstock is “the only candidate in the race with a strong record of bipartisan success and a plan to hit the ground running on day one to produce results through tax relief for families and businesses, getting our tech and energy industries booming again and stopping the misguided sequester cuts.”

Daniels said Comstock is racing to cross the finish line before voters discover her voting record in the General Assembly is too conservative for the 10th District on issues such as women’s health. In doing so, she is prematurely declaring a closely contested race over weeks before Election Day, Daniels said.

Daniels said Foust continued to hold an advantage of $925,000 for advertising on cable and broadcast TV and radio.

“I just want people to realize that the Republican spin that this is a fatal blow is all designed to make people stop paying attention to the campaign,” Daniels said, adding that he is pleased that the campaign will now be more of a contest between the candidates instead of the two parties.

“What we want is a contest between John Foust and Barbara Comstock, and that is a contest we win,” Daniels said.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said the race is far from over. National party committees often move money around to places where they believe it will do the most good in the last days of campaigning, Kondik said.

“Obviously, if they thought that Foust was doing better, they wouldn’t have taken the money out,” Kondik said of the DCCC.

Jeremy Mayer, an associate professor in the School of Policy, Government and International Affairs at George Mason University called the news “worse for Foust” because it creates the perception that “Democrats are throwing in the towel, and Republicans are saying ‘we don’t need to spend money here.'”

But Mayer said a strong get out the vote effort could yet turn the race toward Foust.

“National committees make decisions like this all the time, and they don’t always get it right,” Mayer said. “Foust and his campaign aren’t going to give up, nor should they.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com