- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 11, 2014

Despite polls showing a tough race for Kansas incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm does not plan to spend any of its money defending GOP-held seats this year, with a senior official saying Thursday they are sticking to playing offense.

Sen. Rob Portman, the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s vice chairman for finance, said the NRSC has no plans to spend money in Kansas, Georgia or Kentucky, the three GOP-held seats analysts say are in play.

“I don’t think any Republicans seats are in great danger,” Mr. Portman told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Of the 36 Senate seats up for grabs, 21 of them are now in the hands of Democrats.

Mr. Portman said — and independent forecasters agree — that Republicans are well-positioned to pick up seats in West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana, putting them well within reach of the net six seats needed to seize control of the Senate.

The NRSC, meanwhile, has raised more than $81 million this cycle, and after pulling in $6.1 million in August, recently announced it had more than $19.9 million in the bank heading into the homestretch of the midterm campaign.

Mr. Portman suggested most of that money would be invested against red-state Democrats in North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. He also said campaign cash could go into races in Iowa, Michigan, Colorado and New Hampshire. Those eight races, he said, are “too close to call.”

Justin Barasky, spokesman for Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, poked fun at Mr. Portman’s plans, saying the GOP Senate committee has already spent $2.5 million in Georgia.

Mr. Barasky also said Democrats “are well-positioned to hold the majority.”

“We have better candidates who are running smarter campaigns, while Republicans are saddled with bad candidates who are defending even worse records,” he said.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics released a new forecast Thursday that said Republicans will pick up a net of five to eight Senate seats, and that the odds of Rep. Tom Cotton toppling incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas have improved.

“This means that the best-case scenario we can now envision for Democrats is a 50-50 tie in the Senate, with Vice President Joe Biden’s tie-breaking vote narrowly keeping Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, as majority leader,” the UVA forecast said. “The likeliest outcome remains a Republican gain of six or seven seats.”

Still, there are some signs that the NRSC might have to get more involved than Mr. Portman would like in the Kansas Senate race, where Mr. Roberts finds himself in a tough re-election battle against independent Greg Orman.

The New York Times reported last week that the NRSC, which is chaired by fellow Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, deployed veteran GOP strategist Chris LaCivita to advise Mr. Roberts, following news reports that Democrat Chad Taylor was leaving the race.

Mr. Taylor’s bowing out clears the way for a one-on-one showdown with Mr. Orman. SurveyUSA has released a poll this week showing the race is a dead heat.

Meanwhile, the latest polls in Georgia show Republican David Perdue holding a slight edge over Democrat Michelle Nunn, and in Kentucky, Sen. Mitch McConnell has opened up a bigger lead over Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrats’ candidate and the Kentucky secretary of state.

For his part, Mr. McConnell, a formidable fundraiser, has declined to take any aid from the NRSC.

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