The Senate playing field is shrinking
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Last week, a super PAC affiliated with Mitch McConnell announced it was pulling nearly $6 million out of the New Hampshire Senate race. On Tuesday, the group dumped an additional $6 million into the Pennsylvania Senate race.
“Dr. Oz is surging, but Democrats are throwing a barrage of late spending into Pennsylvania to stop his momentum,” Senate Leadership Fund president Steven Law said. “This is a must-win race where we have to consolidate our firepower to ensure Oz gets over the top. We believe if we win Pennsylvania, we win the majority.”
The move by SLF is the latest and most prominent example of the shrinking Senate playing field with the midterm elections now only two weeks away.
With the Senate knotted at 50-50, the emphasis – on both sides – is now on winning the small handful of races seen as most competitive between the two parties, with the Pennsylvania seat, currently held by the GOP, at the top of that list, followed by Democratic-held seats in Georgia and Nevada.
North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin are part of the second tier of competitive seats – all three of which are currently controlled by Republicans. (Worth noting: major Democratic outside groups have largely sat out Ohio despite Rep. Tim Ryan’s stronger-than-expected campaign.)
There’s also Arizona, where Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly has held a narrow lead over Republican nominee Blake Masters. SLF previously canceled ad reservations for September and October in the race.
Seemingly gone for Republicans are the dreams of picking up the likes of the New Hampshire seat, where Sen. Maggie Hassan is seeking a second term. Ditto Republican hopes of beating Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.
Whispers of winning a sleeper race over longtime Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley have largely faded for Democrats. The same goes for Florida, where Democratic Rep. Val Demings has been unable to close a persistent single-digit edge for Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
Decisions to cut off heavy ad spending typically amount to an admission of defeat. And it is these decisions that often make or break a campaign for the majority. Choose to pull out of a race too soon (or not soon enough) and you could be wasting millions of precious ad dollars on a lost cause.
The Point: The best way to understand where each side sees the majority being made is to follow the money. And what the money tells us right now is that the map is getting smaller even as the stakes are getting larger.