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RGA drops $2 million on ads in Florida

1. The Republican Governors Association will transfer $2 million to the Florida Republican party, cash that will immediately be used to fund an ad attacking Democratic nominee Alex Sink, according to a source briefed on the plan.

The RGA's latest expenditure in the Sunshine State comes just weeks after the organization spent $2 million on television ads hitting Sink, the state's chief financial officer, even as its own candidates -- former health care CEO Rick Scott and state Attorney General Bill McCollum -- were bashing one another in the runup to the Aug. 24 primary.

The RGA's doubling down -- literally -- on its investment in Florida is designed to send a message that the party will spend what it takes to win the state despite the fact that Scott, who dropped $50 million of his own money on the primary, has considerable personal wealth. A source close to the RGA also noted that the committee's investment in the race should be a signal to Republican donors -- particularly those loyal to McCollum -- that it's time to make peace and start helping Scott.

Democrats have been ebullient about their chances of winning the open seat gubernatorial race -- Gov. Charlie Crist (I) is running for Senate -- since Scott emerged, bruised and battered, from the primary last week.

The only post-primary polling that has been released showed the race a dead heat although it was conducted by Rasmussen, an auto-dialing firm that Democrats insist favors Republicans.

It's hard to overestimate the stakes in the Florida governor's race for the two parties. Not only is the state expected to be a major battleground in the 2012 presidential race but it also is slated to gain seats following the 2010 Census -- meaning that whichever party controls the governor's mansion will have an influential hand in the decennial redistricting process.

The RGA's $4 million investment is evidence of the priority Florida takes in the minds of many national strategists. The Democratic Governors Association has already sent $2 million to the state for Sink. Will they answer the RGA?

2 Wealthy businessman Ron Johnson (R) outraised Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in July and most of August and has spent about $4.4 million of his own money on his bid, an indication that Johnson is willing to spend whatever it takes from his personal fortune in order to close the gap with the three-term Democrat.

From July 1 to August 25, Johnson raised $1.2 million compared to $920,000 for Feingold. Overall, Feingold has raised $3.7 million compared to $1.8 million for
Johnson, who entered the race in May. (Johnson has also given his campaign more than $4 million of his own money.)

The two are about equal in overall spending: Feingold has spent $4.3 million so far and Johnson has spent $4.6 million. But when it comes to broadcast TV ads, Feingold has spent only $1.4 million compared to $4 million for Johnson, according to an analysis by the Campaign Media Analysis Group. In addition, the conservative American Action Network has spent $380,000 to date on TV ads slamming Feingold on spending.

In an appearance on MSNBC Thursday evening, Feingold acknowledged that "obviously, this environment is very tough," but he rejected the idea that he's in trouble. "We're going to win," Feingold said.

He took a shot at Johnson as someone who's "praising the communist Chinese system over our system," a reference to an interview earlier this week in which Johnson referred to a statement by casino tycoon Steve Wynn that the business climate in China is more certain than it is in the U.S. (Johnson's camp has responded that Johnson never implied that the China is better for business.)

3. Republican congressional candidates continued to turn in big financial reports on Thursday in a handful of remaining primary states.

Pre-primary financial reports were due by midnight in the seven states holding primaries on Sept. 14, as well as the District of Columbia.

Retired Army Col. Chris Gibson (R) continued to pull in big money for his run against freshman Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.), raising $262,000 in the eight weeks between July 1 and Aug. 25. Despite getting a late start, Gibson now has $526,000 in the bank.

Former Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy (R) raised $233,000 for the same period, banking $694,000 for his open-seat campaign in retiring Rep. David Obey's (D-Wis.) 7th district. Duffy is considered a top GOP recruit.

Maryland state Sen. Andy Harris (R) outraised freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil (D) $172,000 to $128,000 for the period and hasn't spent too heavily on a primary with self-funding businessman Rob Fisher. Harris has raised $1.6 million total and banked $944,000 at the end of August; Fisher has spent about $400,000 against him. Kratovil has $1.3 million cash on hand.

The top Republican running for retiring Rep. Bill Delahunt's (D-Mass.) seat raised more than both Democrats seeking the seat. State Rep. Jeff Perry (R) collected $156,000 compared to $149,000 for Norfolk County District Attorney Bill Keating (D) and $61,000 for state Sen. Robert O'Leary (D). But Keating has far more cash on hand - $364,000 to $128,000.

In Delaware, businesswoman Michele Rollins (R) raised $206,000 for the period and had $369,000 on hand for her run at Rep. Mike Castle's (R-Del.) open seat. Like Harris, Rollins, who is personally wealthy herself, faces a self-funding primary opponent.

Not all Republicans were riding high, though. Rhode Island state Rep. John Loughlin (R), who is running for retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy's (D) 1st district seat, raised just $21,000 and has only $67,000 cash on hand. And nurse Ann Marie Buerkle (R) was outraised $139,000 to $94,000 by Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) and has less than one-sixth of Maffei's cash on hand.

4. The American Action Forum, the conservative group headed by former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and former McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin, has released its latest round of polls showing Republican candidates well-positioned in ten races in the West.

The polls, each of which surveyed 400 likely voters and had a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points, showed Republican candidates leading Democratic incumbents by significant margins in four races. It's the third set of regional polling the group has released in recent weeks -- all of which show Republicans, perhaps not surprisingly, running strong.

In Colorado's 4th, state Rep. Cory Gardner (R) leads Rep. Betsy Markey (D) 50 percent to 39 percent; in Colorado's 3rd, state Rep. Scott Tipton (R) leads Rep. John Salazar (D) 51 percent to 43 percent; in Arizona's 1st, dentist Paul Gosar (R) is leading Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) 47 percent to 41 percent; and in Arizona's 5th, former Maricopa Co. Treasurer Dave Schweikert (R) leads Rep. Harry Mitchell (D) 50 percent to 44 percent.

Democratic incumbents in four other districts are statistically tied with their Republican challengers. In Nevada's 3rd, former state Sen. Joe Heck (R) takes 48 percent to 45 percent for Rep. Dina Titus (D) 48 percent to 45 percent; in California's 11th, attorney David Harmer (R) receives 45 percent to 44 percent for Rep. Jerry McNerney (D); in Arizona's 8th, retired
Marine Sgt. Jesse Kelly (R) and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) are tied 46 percent each; and in California's 47th, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) is at 45 percent to 43 percent for state Assemblyman Van Tran (R).

The surveys also showed Democratic incumbents leading in two races: Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) leads attorney Jon Barela (R) 49 percent to 42 percent in New Mexico's 1st, and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D) leads state Rep. Scott Bruun (R) 44 percent to 36 percent in Oregon's 5th.

It's worth noting that the polls were conducted by a Republican firm for a conservative outside group. Even so, the surveys add one more data point to the spate of bad news Democrats have been faced with this week.

5. If it's Friday, it's time for two -- yes, two! -- Fix chats.

Start your day off right at 10:30 a.m. when we reveal the winner of the Fix's "Worst Week in Washington" competition in a live video chat.

Then, stick around for an hour's worth of the "Live Fix" chat you have come to know and love (we hope); it's 60 minutes of politics, sports, coffee, music and whatever else is on your collective minds.

What better way to ease into the Labor Day weekend?

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | September 3, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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