National Republicans are launching a $2 million ad campaign against Democratic Rep. Ron Kind — a sign they see a fresh opportunity to flip his rural Wisconsin district.
Congressional Leadership Fund, the House GOP’s chief super PAC, will begin running ads on TV and digital platforms on Friday targeting Kind, a 12-term member who is one of 30 Democrats in districts that President Donald Trump carried in 2016.
Kind is a prominent moderate voice in the House Democratic caucus as a former chair of the New Democrat Coalition and a leading opponent of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership bids. Though his district has been trending quickly to the right in the Trump era, Kind was thought to be in a strong position this cycle. He has not faced competitive reelections in recent years, besting his 2018 opponent by nearly 20 points.
The group’s spot contrasts the military service of Kind’s opponent, Derrick Van Orden, with what it calls the congressman’s dereliction of duty. A narrator notes Kind missed 138 votes in the last 2.5 years. The ad will air in the La Crosse and Wausau markets.
The decision to go into Kind’s district is notable because new offensive targets have proved rare this cycle for Republicans, who face an increasingly narrow path back to the majority. And they have been pushed into a defensive crouch by Democrats, who have recently made buys targeting deep red seats in Montana, Michigan, Alaska and Colorado.
The GOP initially struggled to find a strong contender to take on Kind. Van Orden, a retired Navy SEAL-turned-author, did not file to run until mid-March of this year and said he decided to do so after Kind voted for the articles of impeachment against Trump.
“The concerted effort Republicans put into recruiting top-tier candidates has allowed us to push deeper into the offensive opportunities some thought might be out of reach this cycle,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a statement.
The group’s internal data from this summer found Trump is still leading Biden in the district, and that a majority of voters want their member of Congress to back the president’s agenda. The generic congressional ballot favors a Republican candidate
President Barack Obama won the seat, which spans the western and southwestern swaths of the state, by 11 points in 2012. Trump won it by nearly 5 points four years later. It is predominantly white and largely rural.
Van Orden is not well-known but has proved a solid fundraiser, and he outraised the incumbent by a 2 to 1 margin in the second quarter. He is already on TV with an ad that links Kind to Pelosi and warns that Kind supports giving stimulus checks to illegal immigrants.
Still, Kind has a formidable cash-on-hand advantage, having banked nearly $3.1 million by late July, compared to Van Orden’s $288,000. The congressman has booked nearly $1.8 million in the district. His opponent has reserved about $1 million, according to data from Advertising Analytics.
No other outside groups have booked air time in the district.