World & Nation

With five Senate contests on ‘knife’s edge,’ GOP donors give more

Rob Portman
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) attends the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 29, 2012.
(Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

With less than two months left before election day, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was out in California last week hustling for dollars and briefing Republican donors about what he said was the party’s critical need for resources to compete in the tossup states that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.

“There are probably five states on the knife’s edge,” Portman, the vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a potential 2016 presidential contender, said in an interview during his California visit.

Highlighting the contentious battlegrounds of Arkansas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Iowa and Colorado, Portman predicted that the GOP would have “a very good possibility” of retaking the Senate majority “if we have the resources to be able to compete.”

Also, Portman argued that Michigan and New Hampshire are “very much in play” -- though polls indicate that Democrats have been holding their edge in those states -- along with Alaska, where recent polling has shown the race within the margin of error. Georgia and Kentucky are also considered hotly contested tossups.


Three other states that were once in question -- West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana -- are now “in great shape” for Republicans, Portman said.  

Kansas recently moved into the tossup category after Democratic contender Chad Taylor withdrew from the Senate race there to elevate the prospects of self-funded independent Greg Orman. Taylor has filed a petition to have his name removed from the November ballot, but it is unclear whether that effort will be successful. The NRSC has dispatched operatives to help Sen. Pat Roberts retool his campaign.

“I’m still confident that we are going to win in Kansas,” Portman said. “I feel like [Roberts] is doing the right things now; the campaign is going well and the demographics have become very red. It’s likely that we will see a closing of those poll numbers toward us, because of the Republican nature of the electorate.”

The tightening fall contests have led more Republican donors to contribute to the NRSC effort. Though conservative outside groups have heavily outspent liberal groups, the NRSC has trailed the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in fundraising in quarter-to-quarter tallies this election cycle.


But the NRSC had a record-breaking August, raising $6.1 million and rounding out the month with $19.9 million in cash on hand. Spokesman Brad Dayspring said that will bring the committee’s total to over $81 million raised, “putting this cycle on a record pace for the NRSC.” (Democratic figures are not yet available.)

Last month, the Democratic Senate committee celebrated its best July in history, outraising its GOP counterpart by $2.2 million with a total haul of $7.7 million. At that time, the DSCC had raised $103.5 million for the 2014 cycle. Democratic officials noted in a news release that that figure was “a whopping $27 million more than the NRSC.”

Pointing to the overwhelming amount of outside spending by groups such as the Koch-brothers backed Americans for Prosperity, DSCC executive director Guy Cecil said the Democrats were “running smarter, better campaigns with better candidates,” and argued that they were in position to hold the Senate majority.

Twitter: @MaeveReston