Republicans and Democrats, hoping to pick up seats in Congress through redistricting, are pouring money and political muscle into statehouse races in about 16 states.
State legislatures will next year redraw congressional districts based on the 2010 census. Cutting out a wealthy suburb or looping in an ethnic neighborhood can turn a district from Republican to Democratic, or vice-versa. If done across the board, redistricting can tip a congressional delegation red or blue for a generation.
The key national organizations seeking to influence state elections will spend about $200 million this year, double what they spent in 2006, the most recent comparable contest.
The cash is allowing local candidates to adopt tactics more typically used by national politicians: time on cable TV, advanced polling techniques and direct mailings.
All this is playing out in Baraboo, Wis., where a tiny state-house campaign is being bombarded by money and advice from national organizations such as the AFL-CIO labor union, Planned Parenthood and a Republican group run by former White House strategist Edward Gillespie.
The idea that Democrats and Republicans are banking on a win in districts like Wisconsin's 42nd "is a pretty humbling thought, for sure," said Fred Clark, the Democratic incumbent.
Republican and Democratic strategists are focusing on races in states that they believe could eventually swing as many as 25 to 30 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The top targets are Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas.