In a piece that was ultimately focused on estimating political ad spending in this cycle, the Cook Political Report‘s Elizabeth Wilner managed to give us a nice, concise description of a somewhat narrower-than-usual downballot landscape next year:
While we expect a jump in presidential spending, we see little or no growth in spending on statewide and House races. Today’s list of competitive House races is short: 30 Leans and Toss-Ups compared to 48 at this point in the 2012 cycle. With control of the chamber not in doubt, donors’ attention will focus on the races where party control is at stake.
Today’s list of competitive Senate seats also is short, with nine seats listed by The Cook Political Report as Leans or Toss-Ups compared to 11 seats four years ago. That said, the latest battle for Senate control will be waged in some expensive airspace: Florida (which now has two contested primaries), Illinois, North Carolina (host of by far the most expensive Senate race in 2014), Ohio and Pennsylvania. TV ads already have aired by, or on behalf of weak Republican incumbents in Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Plus, California’s new top-two rule means the state finally may host a contested fall race, albeit between two Democrats.
But among the 12 governors’ races, only three look competitive right now, compared to more than twice as many—seven—four years ago.
Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are likely to be dual battlegrounds with close presidential and Senate races (actually, NC will have a governor’s race, too). So a lot of money is going to be concentrated in a relatively few places. Get ready for bombardment if you live in them.