In Wisconsin, Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin (above) is facing off against former Gov. Tommy Thompson for the Senate seat.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee on Wednesday made its first independent expenditure foray into Nevada and Wisconsin, waiting until less than five weeks before Election Day to expand its advertising footprint as part of a strategy that helps ensure it has enough cash reserves to bolster underfunded candidates.
The NRSC, which would not comment on its ad strategy, had been noticeably absent from the front lines of the ad wars being waged in several Senate battlegrounds across the country, partly because friendly outside organizations have been spending significant dollars in races, allowing the committee to take a wait-and-see approach. While there is no coordination, spending from groups such as American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce allowed the committee greater flexibility.
"We have every confidence that with the combined efforts of the NRSC, our candidates and our friends on the outside, every Republican candidate in every competitive race will have the resources they need to get their message out to voters," NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said.
Candidates who might be in particular need of financial assistance from the NRSC down the stretch include former Govs. George Allen and Tommy Thompson, the Republican nominees in Virginia and Wisconsin, respectively.
Until Wednesday, the committee had spent about $5.3 million in IEs, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. That's less than half the IE total of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is playing more offense than expected at this stage of the cycle. But the NRSC and GOP outside groups have combined to keep a heavy presence on the airwaves across the playing field.
Through Wednesday, the DSCC had reported spending about $11 million in 10 states. That doesn't count the ad buys the committee recently announced but had not yet reported to the FEC: $526,000 in Arizona and $410,000 in Maine, both open-seat pickup opportunities not on the landscape at the outset of the cycle.
The DSCC has also benefited from the presence of Democratic-aligned groups such as Majority PAC and its affiliate, Patriot Majority USA, which have spent heavily in tossup states and have helped push marginally competitive states, such as Indiana, into the dead center of the fight for the Senate.
Democratic strategists said the collective efforts of the DSCC, Democratic outside groups and well-funded Democratic candidates have kept the party's spending competitive with the GOP. Candidates get better rates on TV time purchases, which is why both committees have also used coordinated ads and transferred money directly to the candidates and state parties.