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Parties Sprinting to Election Day

In mid-August, NRSC Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) sent a missive to his colleagues alerting them that he had been forced to cut back the committee’s IE operation — which controls the committee’s spending on TV advertising — because his fellow Senators had not stepped up financially when asked to.

At the end of July, the NRSC had $25.4 million in the bank compared with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s $43 million.

The current top tier of Senate races outside of the open seats includes matchups involving GOP incumbents in Alaska, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Oregon, North Carolina and Mississippi. The Alaska race is in a category all its own as it features Sen. Ted Stevens (R), who is scheduled to go to trial on federal corruption charges in late September.

In New Hampshire, Sen. John Sununu (R) remains the most vulnerable incumbent in the chamber. The NRSC went up on the air in the Granite State last week. However, the state is one of the most expensive of this election cycle because it falls in the Boston media market, and if Sununu isn’t able to close the gap with former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) at some point the GOP will be forced to determine whether its ad dollars might be better spent elsewhere.

North Carolina and Mississippi — terrain that is traditionally not favorable to Democrats in presidential election years — present interesting opportunities, polls show.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) was trailing state Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in one Democratic survey released last week. And in Mississippi, appointed Sen. Roger Wicker (R) will face former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) in a contest where neither candidate will have a party ID next to his name on the November ballot.

For Democrats, their challenge will be to try to move at least one, if not two, second- and third-tier races into the more competitive column. The leading contests they will look to are in Kentucky and Georgia — and Obama’s campaign is expected to contest the latter at the presidential level.

However, the party’s top prize of the cycle would be ousting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is favored to win another term over wealthy businessman Bruce Lunsford (D).

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