Se­nate su­per PAC on spend­ing blitz

Repub­li­can group plow­ing $21 mil­lion more into key races

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Matea Gold

The Repub­li­cans’ cen­tral Se­nate su­per po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee is plow­ing $21 mil­lion more into six key races in the com­ing weeks as the fight for con­trol of the cham­ber moves to states more hos­pitable to GOP can­di­dates.

The Se­nate Lead­er­ship Fund, a su­per PAC that is part of the Amer­i­can Cross­roads suite of GOP big­money groups, is ex­pand­ing its tele­vi­sion buys in New Hamp­shire, North Carolina, In­di­ana, Mis­souri, Ne­vada and Penn­syl­va­nia, of­fi­cials said.

The group is cut­ting back most of its planned spend­ing in Ohio, where in­cum­bent Repub­li­can Sen. Rob Port­man has widened his lead over for­mer Gov. Ted Strick­land.

“The bat­tle lines are shift­ing rapidly,” said Steven Law, the su­per PAC’s pres­i­dent and a for­mer chief of staff to Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky. “The Democrats’ ini­tial the­ory of 2016 was they were go­ing to win the Se­nate ma­jor­ity be­cause they were com­pet­ing in states that (Pres­i­dent Barack) Obama won in 2012. Now, their path to the ma­jor­ity is shift­ing to states that Mitt Rom­ney won, and that’s much more of an up­hill bat­tle for them.” Law’s assess­ment? “I think we will hold the ma­jor­ity,” he said.

Al­to­gether, the Se­nate Lead­er­ship Fund plans to spend $76 mil­lion in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber — and the to­tal could swell larger by Elec­tion Day, thanks to mega-donors such as Miriam and Shel­don Adel­son, who gave the su­per PAC $20 mil­lion in Au­gust.

The spend­ing blitz comes af­ter an al­lied non­profit GOP Sen. Kelly Ay­otte of New Hamp­shire is flanked re­cently by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, and Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C. Try­ing to get Ay­otte re-elected is the big­gest in­vest­ment that the Se­nate Lead­er­ship Fund is mak­ing this cy­cle. group, One Na­tion, shelled out $26 mil­lion on “is­sue ads” tout­ing GOP can­di­dates be­tween last Oc­to­ber and Au­gust. That or­ga­ni­za­tion is not re­quired to dis­close its con­trib­u­tors.

Law said donors have flocked to pro­tect the Se­nate ma­jor­ity be­cause they see the fight as a “con­crete, achiev­able goal” — and one in which out­side spend­ing can have a clear im­pact, un­like in the White House race, which is “much larger, more chaotic and harder to pre­dict.”

And Repub­li­cans are now feel­ing much more bullish about their chances of stay­ing in con­trol. One ma­jor fac­tor that has boosted GOP Se­nate can­di­dates, Law said, is that vot­ers are sep­a­rat­ing Don­ald Trump and his po­lar­iz­ing cam­paign from ap­peals made by down-ticket Repub­li­cans.

“Peo­ple just see the top of the ticket being com­pletely dis­em­bod­ied from the Sen- ate races,” Law said. “I think most of our can­di­dates have done an ex­cel­lent job of pre­sent­ing them­selves as unique po­lit­i­cal fig­ures with a dis­tinct value propo­si­tion.”

While Democrats are at­tempt­ing to “suck these races up into the morass of the pres­i­den­tial race,” he said, Repub­li­cans are try­ing to “push them down to the ground.”

Here’s a break­down of where the Se­nate Lead­er­ship Fund is investing its money and Law’s assess­ment of the state of play:

GOP in­cum­bent Marco Ru­bio vs. Demo­cratic Rep. Pa­trick Mur­phy.

$10.8 mil­lion (no new buys).

“In our polling, Mur­phy has not re­ally caught fire there yet,” said Law, who said there could be ad­di­tional in­vest­ments in the state. “We feel the dy­nam­ics are pulling in our di­rec­tion, and Ru­bio is driv­ing that race.”

GOP in­cum­bent Rob Port­man vs. Demo­cratic for­mer Gov. Ted Strick­land.

$1.2 mil­lion (a de­crease of nearly $7 mil­lion).

“We love Rob Port­man, and we love the fact he has run a com­mand­ing race,” Law said.

GOP in­cum­bent Kelly Ay­otte vs. Demo­cratic Gov. Mag­gie Hassan.

$22.8 mil­lion (an in­crease of $7 mil­lion), through af­fil­i­ated su­per PAC Gran­ite State So­lu­tions.

Try­ing to get Ay­otte re­elected is the big­gest in­vest­ment the Se­nate Lead­er­ship Fund is mak­ing.

That’s be­cause the su­per PAC, through its af­fil­i­ate Gran­ite State So­lu­tions, is one of the few out­side groups back­ing her, Law said.

On the Demo­cratic side, Hassan has been buoyed by an ar­ray of al­lies, in­clud­ing the Demo­cratic Se­nate Ma­jor­ity PAC.

“The ter­rain is tough and Mag­gie Hassan is prob­a­bly one of the Democrats’ bet­ter re­cruits, but over­all we think Ay­otte has run a very good race,” he said. “We ac­tu­ally feel like the dy­nam­ics in that race are start­ing to im­prove in our fa­vor, but the one glar­ing con­sid­er­a­tion we had was the weight of mes­sage dis­par­ity.”

GOP in­cum­bent Richard Burr vs. Demo­cratic chal­lenger Deb­o­rah Ross.

$9 mil­lion (an in­crease of $900,000).

“It’s a very tight, com­pet­i­tive race,” Law said. “The bat­tle at the gu­ber­na­to­rial level is caus­ing some tur­bu­lence. One of Burr’s chal­lenges is he is not that well known in North Carolina, so he is more im­pacted by ex­ter­nal­i­ties.”

GOP Rep. Todd Young vs. Demo­cratic for­mer Sen. and Gov. Evan Bayh.

$8.5 mil­lion (an in­crease of $4.5 mil­lion).

“We think In­di­ana is go­ing to be the Democrats’ Water­loo,” Law said. “They are go­ing to spend a for­tune here, and they are go­ing to lose.”

GOP in­cum­bent Roy Blunt vs. Demo­cratic chal­lenger Ja­son Kan­der.

$7.8 mil­lion (an in­crease of $5.3 mil­lion).

“We­have been con­cerned about this race for a long time,” said Law, not­ing “a gen­eral sour po­lit­i­cal environment in Mis­souri that raised con­cerns for us about any­body run­ning as an in­cum­bent.”

GOP Rep. Joe Heck vs. Demo­cratic for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Cather­ine Cortez Masto.

$8.3 mil­lion (an in­crease of $2.3 mil­lion).

“One of the things we’ve dis­cov­ered is Ne­vada vot­ers are aware that Cortez Masto is (Sen.) Harry Reid’s hand­picked suc­ces­sor,” Law said. “He’s a tremen­dously po­lar­iz­ing fig­ure. Harry Reid is both the al­ba­tross around her neck and her nec­es­sary pa­tron. That’s an un­der­tone for the whole race. We think it is a hard race, but we like our chances.”

GOP in­cum­bent Pat Toomey vs. Demo­cratic chal­lenger Katie McGinty.

$7.5 mil­lion (an in­crease of $1 mil­lion).

“I think (this) is some of the tough­est ter­rain we have to fight in this cy­cle, but our view of the race is Toomey is do­ing re­mark­ably well in the Philly me­dia mar­ket par­tic­u­larly, which is the tough­est part of the state,” Law said.

CHIP SO­MOD­EV­ILLA/GETTY

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