Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL)
Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, one of the House Majoriy PAC's beneficiaries
The Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC, which you can think of as the official unofficial super PAC of the DCCCC, has released a list of 24 districts where it's made its first fall ad reservations of the cycle. The reservations (which don't actually commit the group to buy, but allow it to lock in lower rates) total $6.5 million, but HMP's executive director, Ali Lapp, says she expects the PAC to spend between $45 million and $50 million overall.

The roster of seats therefore gives an early picture of where Democrats are focusing their firepower this cycle, but it's an incomplete one: Last cycle, HMP got involved in over 50 races. And other groups, the D-Trip in particular, will of course bring millions to bear as well. The list is still an instructive place to start, and to help make more sense of it, we've organized it according to how we rate the competitiveness of each contest (from most GOP-favored to most Dem-favored):

All but two races we have listed as Tossups make the cut here: NY-21, an open Democratic-held seat in upstate New York that's looking increasingly like it'll be a Republican pickup, and WV-03, where Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall is facing an exceptionally tough re-election battle in a district that's rapidly trended red. HMP has already spent $600,000 here, but it's possible that they're getting ready to triage this race. Citing unnamed Democratic operatives, a new piece in Politico reports that private polls show that Rahall "now trails his Republican opponent significantly."

For the most part, though, everything on this list is more or less what you'd expect (every Democrat save Tierney and Bishop is a freshman), though a few races are a bit surprising to see here. Chief among them are those at the margins, particularly MN-02, where Democrat Mike Obermueller faces a big financial disparity against Rep. John Kline, and NY-24, where Republican John Katko is in a similar situation vis-à-vis Rep. Dan Maffei. Whether these reservations reflect a genuine belief that these seats are flippable or instead are more of a feint we can only speculate.

And we're also left guessing as to the bigger question, which is where will HMP expand next? As you can see, Democrats are mostly on defense, as just half a dozen seats here are GOP-held. Will future reservations seek to move the playing field in more of an offensive direction, or will it be necessary to shore up more vulnerable incumbents? Party committees and super PACs may be getting a jump earlier than ever—HMP says it didn't make initial reservations in 2012 until July—but it'll still be a while before anyone can really know what this year will look like.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 03:35 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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