National Democratic leaders are showing further doubts about their prospects of ousting Ohio Sen. Rob Portman — but new confidence that they have averted a potentially expensive fight to keep the Colorado seat of Sen. Michael Bennet in their party’s hands.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has canceled another two weeks of ad reservations made on behalf of former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who has struggled to build momentum in his campaign to unseat Portman. The decision comes just days after the DSCC and a leading Democratic super PAC both scaled back spending plans in a race that had been expected to be among the most competitive of the cycle.
Meanwhile, the DSCC is also canceling entirely the $5 million in reservations it had made in Colorado, where Bennet had anticipated facing a strong, well-financed Republican challenger. But the Republican nominee, Darryl Glenn, is a county commissioner who had little statewide profile and had raised little money before upsetting several better-funded candidates in the June Colorado primary. He reported having about $119,000 at the end of June, compared to Bennet’s $6 million.
Where the Ohio shift reflects the perceived weakness of the Democratic candidate, the Colorado cancellation reflects the Democrat’s apparent strength. Together, the shifts mean that the DSCC has roughly $6.5 million to spend on more competitive races — including potential pickups in places like North Carolina, Missouri and Arizona that have been seen as marginal pick-up opportunities by Democratic strategists but where polls are close.
“We are continuing to make investments in Ohio that support Ted Strickland in a variety of ways,” said a DSCC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “Republicans have failed to mount a credible challenge in Colorado, which frees up that money to go further on offense. Republicans were unable to expand the map which leaves them playing defense across the board.”
The official said plans for redirecting the money to other races has not been finalized.
Strickland spokesman David Bergstein said the former congressman and governor is not to be counted out, with his campaign’s TV ad blitz now underway and a significant statewide field effort coordinated with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the state Democratic party gearing up. The DSCC’s independent ad spending is now set to begin Oct. 4, but that could be delayed further or canceled entirely if Strickland does not rebound in polls.
“There’s still a lot of race left to run, and there’s no one who knows Ohio better or is a stronger grassroots campaigner than Ted Strickland,” Bergstein said. “Ted’s going to do what he does best: campaign vigorously across Ohio, talking about the central contrast in this race – he’s fighting for working people because that where he comes from and that’s who he cares about, while Senator Portman is looking out for his rich and powerful friends.”
Strickland is tapping some of the Democratic party’s biggest names to boost his fundraising, which has significantly lagged Portman’s. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will attend a Strickland fundraiser later this month, according to a Columbus Dispatch report, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont this week asked supporters of his presidential campaign to consider donating to Strickland and select other Democratic Senate candidates.
Bennet spokesman Andrew Zucker declined to comment. Two surveys done earlier this month by major pollsters both found Bennet with a double-digit lead over Glenn.Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Democrats have “abandoned” Strickland in Ohio. “Strickland, who lost 350,000 jobs as governor, has even lost the confidence of his own party,” she said.