POLITICS

A Confident GOP Pulls Money out of Florida

Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio, pumps his fist as he finishes speaking to supporters during a campaign stop Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio, pumps his fist as he finishes speaking to supporters during a campaign stop Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Senate Republicans are so convinced that Marco Rubio will win Florida that they pulled $4 million in TV ads out of the state and are transferring it to more competitive races across the country.

Rubio, a Cuban-American Tea Party darling, is so far ahead in polls that the GOP feels comfortable spending its money elsewhere, according to GOP officials familiar with the plans. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss strategy.

Rubio faces Democrat Kendrick Meek and Independent Charlie Crist.

The officials say Republicans are sending another $1.8 million to California -- they've already committed $3 million to the race -- in hopes that GOP nominee Carly Fiorina can engineer a come-from-behind triumph over Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. Republicans and Democrats both say private polling shows Boxer's lead from last month shrinking some.

Republicans also are sinking $1.3 million more into Pennsylvania, for a total of about $3 million, after surveys showed GOP nominee Pat Toomey's advantage over Democrat Joe Sestak having shrunk. Both parties now consider the race very tight, as disillusioned Democrats have fallen in line behind Sestak in the past few weeks.

Illinois, where President Barack Obama's former Senate seat is up for grabs, is proving to be among the most competitive Senate races in the country. Republicans are trying to come to GOP nominee Mark Kirk's aid in his race against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias by sending another $2 million into the state, for a total of $4 million in the homestretch.

The moves are just the latest in a constantly shifting battleground as Republicans seek to take advantage of a political tail wind by broadening their footprint. Democrats are narrowing their focus to places they must win to keep their Senate and House majorities.

With little more than two weeks before Nov. 2, both sides are making decisions hourly about where to spend limited resources even as donations continue to pour in.

House Democrats, who reported raising $15.9 million in September and have $41.6 million in the bank, plan to spend at least $60 million in television ads and get-out-the-vote efforts in key House races in the final days of the election -- a last-ditch attempt to salvage their hold on power. They plan to run ads in 56 to 65 races over the next two weeks.

It's a 2-1 advantage over the overall spending planned by House Republicans, who had been outspending their counterparts over the past seven weeks. They raised $11.2 million and had $19 million in the bank at the end of September. But the figures are somewhat misleading because their candidates are getting an enormous amount of help from GOP-aligned groups.

Next week, House Republicans or GOP-leaning outside groups plan to spend money in a whopping 82 or more competitive or could-be-close contests.

And, after sitting on the sidelines for months, Democratic-allied groups are starting to pour money into competitive races to defend some of the most endangered incumbents.

Based on reporting from the Associated Press.