Is the GOP canceling ad spending in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin? Or did the NYT get it wrong?

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Big news — if true. The polling lately has been discouraging for Blake Masters and especially Mehmet Oz in Arizona and Pennsylvania, respectively. If the NRSC is already looking down the road and aiming to scale back on spending there, it would be a flashing siren that the party believes both candidates are likely to lose and that its money is better spent somewhere else.

Which would be truly shocking in mid-August of what’s supposed to be a Republican wave year. Voters haven’t really begun paying attention to the midterms yet and control of the Senate might well turn on what happens in AZ and PA. How bad must the internal polling in those states be for the GOP to be looking elsewhere for victories?

Scaling back in Wisconsin seems especially hard to justify. Democrats just nominated far-left Mandela Barnes; in a 50/50 state, aided by incumbency and a pro-GOP national environment, Ron Johnson has to be at least a slight favorite despite having grown increasingly kooky over time.

But wait. Is it true that the NRSC is cutting spending? Or has the Times grossly overhyped what’s going on?

Fake news, says the NRSC’s communications director:

I think there *is* a kernel of news to this but it’s nothing as sexy as “GOP gives up on Pennsylvania and Arizona — in mid-August!”

If I understand the financial machinations correctly, the NRSC is canceling its solo expenditures on ads in those states but is instead planning to team up with Oz’s and Masters’s campaigns on coordinated ad buys later this year. Why do that? Because candidates can buy airtime more cheaply:

One wrinkle in having the NRSC coordinate with the campaigns on ads is that there are caps on how much can be spent in different states on that sort of advertising, and the caps aren’t high. But the NRSC may have a way around that:

Bottom line: The group isn’t abandoning Oz or Masters yet. To do so this early in the race would be nutty at a moment when an unpopular Democratic president is presiding over the worst inflation the country’s seen in 40 years.

But stay tuned. The two have maybe six weeks to change these numbers, I’d guess, before abandoning them becomes a live issue for the RNC and NRSC. If this is how these races look in early October, Republican groups might pull the plug and plow everything they have into trying to carry Herschel Walker in Georgia and Adam Laxalt in Nevada over the finish line.

The newsy kernel in the Times’s overhyped piece about the NRSC partnering with campaigns on ads is that the group has less money in the till than it might have expected in a year that’s looked as promising as this one. As of the end of June, the NRSC’s Democratic counterpart had $53.5 million in the bank after raising $33.5 million in the second quarter. (They raised more than $12 million in June alone after the Dobbs decision dropped in the final week of that month.) The NRSC raised $25.6 million in the second quarter and had just $28.5 million in cash on hand by comparison. Worse, as of a few weeks ago Republican groups had seen online donations slow down at a point in the election cycle when they would normally expect to see them speed up. Maybe that’s inflation at work — but if it is, Democratic small donors are somehow immune. Their donations surged following Dobbs.

It may be that the NRSC is already feeling a financial pinch as crunch time in the midterm campaign looms and is doing what it can to stretch a buck by partnering with campaigns on advertising. Will the money be there for Oz and Masters in October if they have a chance at victory? A few months ago, I think the NRSC would have counted on the “fundamentals” of a terrible national climate for Dems to pick up some of their slack in ad spending. Lately, with the political playing field a bit more even, an ad shortfall may be decisive.

There’s another factor that’s weighing down the RNC and NRSC: Trump. For months Republican officials have complained that he’s sucking up most of the small-donor fundraising oxygen by constantly squeezing his fans for cash and then not spending his windfall to help Republican candidates downballot. Essentially the NRSC is competing with him for donations and that’s not a competition they can win. Following the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, it may be that the share of Republican money that’s going to Trump rather than the party has grown even more lopsided as righties rage-donate to him. Unless Trump’s PAC starts throwing big bucks around to help candidates like Oz and Masters who are in trouble, he’s going to inadvertently deprive the GOP of the wherewithal to rescue them.

Which would mean, between endorsing terrible candidates and vacuuming up available donor money, he’ll end up costing the party Senate seats for the second election cycle in a row. Heck, by the time the campaign is over, he may be largely responsible for Raphael Warnock having won two different Senate elections in Georgia in as many years.

I’ll leave you with this old but cringy clip of Oz that’s going around today, in which he tries to relate to blue-collar Pennsylvanians at a time of high inflation and ends up complaining about the cost of “crudités.”

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