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Republicans Try To Counter Democrats' Money In Down-Ballot Races

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Trump campaign has announced it will not hold any more big-ticket fundraising events before Election Day. The GOP has struggled to match the Democratic Party's better funded presidential campaign, and Republicans are increasingly worried about how that will affect Senate races, which is why the Republican super PAC the Senate Leadership Fund decided this week to pour $25 million into six close Senate races in hopes of keeping control of the Senate. For more, we reached the group's executive chairman, Steven Law, at his office in Washington.

Thank you for joining us again.

STEVEN LAW: Well, it's good to be on the show. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: It is pretty late in the game - I probably don't have to tell you this - to put so much money into down-ballot races. How much of an effect can you possibly have?

LAW: Well, what we're trying to do is counter a huge influx of cash from Democratic groups and donors in the waning weeks of the Senate races. You've got a lot of these groups and donors who figure that the presidential race is all but over. And so they're focusing all their energy and attention on these Senate races. And the amount of money has the potential to really upset the balance in the Democrats' favor.

Obviously, it's not a cheap date to be buying TV in the last couple of weeks. But, again, we just simply can't let the Democrats' spending advantage in these last weeks continue, or we'll have a very, very hard time competing in these very, very close Senate races.

MONTAGNE: And of those six Senate races, the biggest spending is in Nevada, where you all are putting $7.5 million into the race for Republican Senate candidate Joe Heck. He's in a close race. We have a clip of one of your ads, which is making the case against Heck's Democratic challenger.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD, "OUT EARLY")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Under Catherine Cortez Masto, it's bad enough that an accused sex trafficker who forced a 16-year-old girl into prostitution ended up with a plea deal for a lesser charge. But Cortez Masto also voted to allow numerous murderers, criminals and repeat offenders to get out of jail early against the DA's recommendations.

MONTAGNE: That's pretty strong stuff.

LAW: Well, yeah, it's certainly not light fare when you get to the end of an election. And one of the tougher things to do, particularly in this election, is to get voters to focus on the choice between the two candidates and their individual records, especially with Democrats trying to wrap Republicans in the garb of Donald Trump and other issues.

MONTAGNE: And what percentage, would you say - how much of that, the closeness of these races, does have to do with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket?

LAW: You know, it's hard to say. Senate races tend to exist in isolation from the presidential race, almost no matter who's at the top of the ticket. You know, there's probably a slight downward drag in some of these states. It varies, I think, a great deal from state to state. But the biggest problem that we have - and it's most acute in northeastern states like Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where we also have tough Senate races - our candidate is going to have to significantly outperform Donald Trump, even on a good day. And that's going to be a real challenge.

MONTAGNE: But, you know, you said tend to, sort of as in traditionally. And I'm just wondering - this is not a traditional campaign. I mean, we're talking about a year when some pretty high-profile Republicans have actually said they're voting for Hillary Clinton. I mean, doesn't...

LAW: Sure.

MONTAGNE: ...That dynamic affect even Senate races?

LAW: Yeah. I mean, I think there are a couple of things. I mean, originally, Democrats had the idea that Donald Trump's problems were going to become problems for Republican candidates, and that part has not happened. People see Donald Trump as one person, and they see these Republican candidates as something distinct. There are other impacts, though, one of which is that Democratic groups feel that the presidential race is pretty much wrapped up. And so they've been able to focus tens of millions of dollars in this last month on these Senate races. That's the reason why we've had jump in with our $25 million surge. And we won't equalize the resources in the end. I mean, they will still dramatically outspend us because they feel like they don't have to compete anymore at the presidential level, so that's one impact.

And then, I think the second impact is that, typically, going into a presidential election - this is often true, usually true, for Republicans and Democrats - you have a galvanized, unified ticket. Everybody's doing their part. That simply doesn't exist on the Republican side in this election, and it is a challenge for us as we head into the homestretch.

MONTAGNE: Steven Law is the head of the GOP super PAC the Senate Leadership Fund.

Thanks for joining us again.

LAW: Great to be on your show. Thank you so much, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.