Senate Republicans buy TV time in CA, WA and WI
1. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has reserved more than $2.7 million in television time in California, Wisconsin and Washington, according to sources familiar with the ad buy, a signal of their commitment to expanding the playing field this fall as they seek to claw their way back to majority status.
The NRSC has bought $1.75 million worth of air time in California as well as $515,000 in Washington and $470,000 in Wisconsin, expenditures to that amount to 1,000 points of statewide TV in the latter two states and a 1,000 points of television in Los Angeles in the Golden State. (A 1,000 points of television means that the average viewer will see a given ad 10 times in a week.)
All three races feature Democratic incumbents in various stages of vulnerability. Of the trio, California Sen. Barbara Boxer is regarded as the most potentially vulnerable by political handicappers given former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina's personal wealth and the incumbent's sagging poll ratings.
Republicans have also touted their recruits against Washington Sen. Patty Murray and Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold and polling shows both races as possible upsets although the incumbents are well funded and have a proven ability to win tight races.
(In other NRSC news, well regarded operative Brian Jones is being brought on to help with the communications strategy for the California, Nevada and Washington races. Jones, a former communications director at the Republican National Committee, currently works for Mercury Public Affairs in Sacramento.)
While reserving air time is not the same as spending money on the races -- the committee can still cancel the ad buy right up until it goes on the air -- Senate Republican sources insist that they plan to spend in all three states. At the end of June the NRSC had $19.7 million in the bank while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed $21.6 million on hand.
Signaling their intentions so early and in three of the states considered the longer shots for the NRSC in this cycle is designed to force the hand of the DSCC. Will they match these buys? (Boxer, Murray and Feingold would certainly like to see that.) Will the DSCC go after their own pickup opportunities by placing time in places like Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio?
With upwards of 15 races considered potentially competitive, neither Senate committee will have the money to fully fund each one. Picking the right races to fund then is more important than ever before. The NRSC has laid down its markers; let's see if (and when) the DSCC responds.
2. Voters are voting in Oklahoma today where the marquee races are the Republican and Democratic primaries for governor.
In the Republican primary, frontrunner Rep. Mary Fallin is facing off against state Sen. Randy Brogdon, rancher/businessman Robert Hubbard and retired businessman Roger Jackson. On the Democratic side, state Attorney General Drew Edmondson faces Lt. Gov. Jari Askins.
A Sooner poll released over the weekend showed Fallin leading Brogdon 56 percent to 18 percent while Edmonson bested Askins 49 percent to 33 percent.
One of the key places to watch tonight will be Fallin's stronghold of Oklahoma County; watch to see how big she runs up her margin there. Tulsa County -- Brogdon's home base and also home to the state's second-largest city -- will also be key. In the 2008 presidential race, Tulsa County provided about 254,000 votes compared to Oklahoma County's 279,000.
The other big race is in the 5th district where seven Republicans are facing off in the Republican primary for Fallin's seat. (Two candidates are running on the Democratic side.) An early July Sooner poll showed former state Representative and 2006 candidate Kevin Calvey, who has been endorsed by the Club for Growth, leading with 20 percent while his nearest opponents -- professor James Lankford and state Rep. Mike Thompson -- garnered 14 and 12 percent, respectively. (Worth noting: a large number of voters -- 38 percent -- remained undecided.)
Again, Oklahoma County will be key; whoever wins the county, which comprises about 90 percent of the vote in the heavily Republican district, will have a major leg up. With such a crowded field, a runoff is likely; the top two vote-getters would face off on
Aug. 24 if no candidate exceeds 50 percent of the vote today.
3. The Virginia-based Americans for Job Security is up with a new TV ad in the Colorado Senate tying former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton (R) to President Barack Obama and Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and slamming her for her record on taxes and spending.
"Norton pushed the largest tax hike in Colorado history," the narrator of the 30-second spot says, referring to a controversial ballot initiative named Referendum C that narrowly passed in 2005. "As a regulator, she managed a multi-million dollar surge in government spending," the narrator continues.
AJS, a 501(c)(4) group, is spending $585,000 on the ad buy. In April, the group spent $400,000 on a TV ad urging voters to call Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck, who is running against Norton in the Aug. 10 primary, and tell him to "keep fighting for taxpayers who've had it with big government spending and debt."
The last week has been the most contentious in the race, with both candidates trading barbs over gender and the influence of the Tea Party movement in the state. The momentum had been on Buck's side, but it's unclear just yet whether his recent gaffes will give voters pause. (Mail ballots went out to voters last week.)
Democrats have a primary of their own between appointed Sen. Michael Bennet and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. Bennet is considered the favorite.
4. Minnesota Republican governor candidate Tom Emmer raised less than $800,000 in the first six-plus months of 2010, while Democratic-Farmer-Labor endorsed candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher collected about $1 million.
Fundraising reports were due in the race on Monday, and the endorsed candidates of both major parties should be at a strong disadvantage in the money chase thanks to the presence of self-funding Democrats Matt Entenza and former Sen. Mark Dayton.
Emmer had less than $300,000 cash on hand with about 100 days left in the campaign; Kelliher had about $385,000.
Meanwhile, Entenza raised $360,000 but loaned himself roughly $3.5 million in the first six months of the year, personal donations that allowed him to spend $3.9 million -- most of it on television ads. Dayton likely spent millions of his own money on the race too although he didn't release fundraising totals Monday.
Emmer's number is particularly troubling for him, given that he has the Aug. 10 GOP primary largely to himself and has been his party's de facto nominee for several months. He's got less money than Kelliher even though he hasn't run any TV ads.
The state legislator's saving grace could be the fact that Democrats face a contested and expensive primary in which Dayton and Entenza will likely force Kelliher to spend every penny she can raise. Of course, if Dayton or Entenza come out of that primary, their self-funding ability should help them leapfrog Emmer immediately. Dayton currently leads the Democratic field in the polls.
The financial strength of Dayton and Entenza was again on display Monday when they each released new ads.
5. Matt Zabel, longtime chief of staff to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), is leaving his post to take a job as vice president of government affairs for Target.
"Matt has helped me build a great Senate operation from the ground up," said Thune. "I'm grateful for his hard work and knowledge and love of South Dakota, and I wish him all the best."
Zabel's move comes amid speculation that Thune is considering a run for president but, according to sources briefed on the move, there is no large meaning to be drawn from the departure.
Prior to signing on with Thune, Zabel worked as a deputy associate attorney general for the Justice Department and as an adjunct law professor at George Mason Law School.
Ryan Nelson, a longtime Thune confidant and currently state director, will serve as acting chief of staff until a long term replacement is found. Justin Brasell, a well-regarded campaign operative, is managing Thune's re--election race -- although he has no Democratic opponent -- while Kyle Downey remains as communications director.
With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake
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