Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Expanding the Senate Map Promises to Get Expensive

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Gardner’s recent decision to challenge Mark Udall , above, likely altered the Democratic Party’s estimates of how much money it would be forced to spend there this fall.

Senate Republicans aren’t just widening their path to the majority with each new seat added to the competitive map, they’re also increasing the odds Democrats will have to spend money in states beyond the top battlegrounds.

Faced with such a lopsided map this cycle, Senate Democrats were undoubtedly budgeting to spend in at least 10 states. The party is defending nearly two-thirds of the three dozen seats up in November, and a third of their seats are in states President Barack Obama lost in 2012.

But as Republicans continue to fill their candidate roster in potentially competitive races — most recently adding Rep. Cory Gardner in Colorado — it means more money Democrats may have to spend on seats not among their most vulnerable.

“When you expand the playing field, it really does change the dynamics of what you’re planning on doing,” said Dan Allen, a Republican consultant and former operative at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “It’s one more you’re adding to the list that you’re going to have to be fighting for and also spending and dedicating resources in. That’s where the math becomes problematic.”

Gardner’s recent decision to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Udall likely altered the Democratic Party’s estimates of how much money it would be forced to spend there this fall, even though the party remains confident about Udall’s chances to prevail.

To be sure, in a swing state such as Colorado in a midterm cycle, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democrat-aligned outside groups might have felt compelled to expend resources against Ken Buck, who was waging his second Senate campaign until Gardner entered the race. Buck’s flaws as a candidate were exposed during his unsuccessful 2010 Senate campaign, when the DSCC spent about $8 million defending Michael Bennet in a cycle that cost Democrats six seats.

As other races emerge as potential trouble spots for the DSCC, the party’s money may end up spread more widely than it hoped in a cycle where a similar six-seat loss would this time cost Democrats the majority. The DSCC maintains that the party is prepared.

“Democrats will have the resources necessary to successfully wage top-tier competitive campaigns in all of our races that contrast a Democrat who is fighting for their state with a reckless and irresponsible Republican who is pushing a special interest agenda that’s good for the Koch Brothers and bad for everyone else,” DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky said.

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