The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is reserving $1.2 million in television airtime in North Dakota, with hopes of pushing Heidi Heitkamp to an unexpected victory in her Senate race against Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.).
The reservation is not the same as an actual ad buy and can be canceled. Nevertheless, it appears to be a noteworthy signal of interest in a Senate race that, when it first started, seemed destined to be outside the Democratic Party's reach.
Heitkamp, who's made waves by airing several fairly aggressive ads to date, has enjoyed a slim lead in public opinion polls. And already, conservative groups have been forced to invest advertising dollars in the state, according to a Democratic ad tracker. That same ad tracker said that as of Tuesday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee had not reserved ad time in North Dakota, though an email request for confirmation from the NRSC was not immediately returned.
The DSCC is clearing out a great deal of air space in many key states in anticipation of a late campaign push. So far, the committee has reserved $4.5 million worth of time in Missouri, $3.2 million in Montana, $7.5 million in Virginia and $5.1 million in Ohio.
A million dollars of television ads in North Dakota is comparable to $5 million in television ads in Ohio, due to varying ad prices, though a committee official says that the DSCC's reservation in the latter state "is expected to grow."
UPDATE: 5:20 p.m. -- The NRSC has not reserved ad time in North Dakota quite yet. But a spokesman for that committee argued that reservations were not concrete investments, and until the DSCC put cash down for television spots, it wasn't worth reading too far into their actions.
“This time two years ago national Democrats were also insisting they’d be investing in several states that they eventually abandoned by the Fall," emailed Brian Walsh, communications director for the NRSC. "So before Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McCaskill start banking on that cash they may first want to speak with Robin Carnahan, Paul Hodes, Lee Fisher, Brad Ellsworth and Blanche Lincoln for their thoughts."