Parties' late spending on Senate races shows GOP’s jeopardy

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Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., speaks during an event for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Michigan State Fairgrounds in Novi, Mich., Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(AP) – Republicans and Democrats are unleashing millions in eleventh-hour spending to contest Senate seats in states that read like a list of reliable GOP strongholds: Alaska. Arizona. Georgia. Iowa. Kansas. Montana. South Carolina. Texas.

The reason: States in many traditionally conservative areas are in play next month and both sides know it.

Less than two weeks from an Election Day that will determine Senate control, each party is throwing late money at an up-for-grabs Democratic seat in Michigan. The Senate Majority PAC, a political committee aligned with the chamber's Democratic leaders, has canceled its remaining $1.2 million in spending against GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado, sensing victory. National Democrats have reported no significant expenditures yet to protect Sen. Doug Jones, who seems likely to lose his seat in crimson Alabama.

The most striking feature of the campaign's waning days is how both parties are focusing resources on seats in territory that's usually solidly Republican. The spending underscores the broad map the GOP must defend, often in unlikely places, as it struggles to retain its current 53-47 chamber majority.

“I mean, Kansas?" said GOP consultant David Flaherty, citing a state that last elected a Democratic senator in 1932. “We're in what looks like could be a wave election."

The late maneuvering comes despite a political climate that seems to have only hardened in recent months. President Donald Trump's deep unpopularity with moderate and educated voters, particularly in suburbs, is hurting down-ballot GOP candidates as well.

In addition, Democrat candidates have significantly outraised their Republican rivals in all but three of the 15 most competitive Senate races, most of which pit GOP incumbents against Democratic challengers. That's freed national Democrats to aim last-minute money at longer-shot races than usual, in turn forcing Republicans to spend resources defending those seats.

“Close races and a chance to win,” J.B. Poersch, president of Senate Majority PAC, said of how his group decides to allocate money over the campaign’s dwindling days.