GOP Senate campaign pulling Land ads

David Shepardson and Gary Heinlein
Detroit News Washington and Lansing Bureaus

The National Republican Senatorial Committee confirmed Tuesday it is canceling $850,000 in TV time it had reserved in Michigan on behalf of Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land.

Television reservations for the final two weeks have been canceled, said Ron Bonjean, a consultant for the Republican group's independent spending arm.

The national GOP is shifting its campaign spending to more winnable states because it faces many close contests to try to gain control of the Democratic-led Senate, a national political expert said.

"The Republicans will deny it, but it is a simple acceptance of an obvious fact: Gary Peters is very likely to win that Senate seat," said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, about the three-term Democratic congressman who is opposing Land.

"It's that the Republicans have to find six seats (to win the Senate), and there are a lot better choices than Michigan."

The move comes amid polls showing Peters, of Bloomfield Township, with a solid lead over Land, a former secretary of state from the Grand Rapids area. Peters holds a 9-percentage point lead over Land in the race to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, according to a statewide poll conducted for The Detroit News and WDIV (Channel 4) and released Monday.

"We are monitoring this state very closely and think that Terri Lynn has an excellent chance to win," Bonjean said. "No one should be surprised to see us make a significant investment in this race in the coming days and weeks."

Land said Tuesday she remained confident as she toured the nation's only anthrax vaccine plant in Lansing following what campaign staffers described as a faith event in Troy with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, the 2012 GOP presidential hopeful from Pennsylvania, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

"Those groups make their decisions on their own," she said. "This race is a very close race."

The Hill newspaper reported the GOP group's ad cancellation earlier Tuesday.

At least one conservative group plans to run $800,000 in ads on behalf of Land — the Ending Spending Action Fund, which wants to balance federal spending and pay down the national debt.

Ending Spending decided to buy more commercial TV time Wednesday in support of Land but didn't indicate how much it is spending.

"We added another $250,000 to this week," Ending Spending Action Fund President Brian Baker said in a Wednesday email, and plan to schedule "seven figures for next week," meaning at least $1 million or more.

The national GOP is targeting Democratic-held seats in states such as Louisiana, Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina where it hopes to capitalize on President Barack Obama's unpopularity but is facing close contests.

Real Clear Politics lists 10 Senate races as tossups, but not Michigan's.

Republicans have not won a U.S. Senate race in Michigan since 1994, which helps explain why the national Senate committee is abandoning the state for now, Sabato said.

"The Republicans are having to make some tough choices," he said. "Winning control of the Senate is not a slam dunk. They need to put every resource they can find into a few races — including Kansas," where independent candidate Greg Orman is ahead of Republican Sen. Pat Roberts in the polls.

In Michigan's contest, National Republican Senatorial Campaign spokesman Brad Dayspring criticized Peters for running "one of the most negative campaigns in the country because of the competitiveness of this race, while Terri Lynn Land's energy is fueled by grassroots support."

Peters' campaign says it has been outspent during the campaign largely by outside groups. About $32.3 million was spent in Michigan's Senate campaign through the end of September, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network — $18.2 million by Land and her allies compared with $14.1 million by Peters and his allies.

"Despite being outspent nearly 2-1 by Land's smear campaign, Gary continues to gain momentum as the only candidate who will stand up for Michigan middle class families and small businesses," Peters spokeswoman Haley Morris said.

About 15 percent of likely voters said in the Oct. 2-4 Detroit News-WDIV poll that they remain undecided in the Michigan Senate race.

Land's Election Day vulnerabilities lie in southeast Michigan, where the congressman holds a "commanding" 17.5 percentage-point lead among likely voters, 49.5 percent to 32 percent, said Richard Czuba, president of the Chicago-based Glengariff Group Inc. that conducted the Detroit News-WDIV poll.

Peters also holds a 17 percentage point lead over Land among female voters. Land is in a dead heat with Peters among male voters, 41 percent to 40 percent.

But during her Tuesday visit with executives and some of the 400 employees at the Emergent Biosolutions plant in Lansing, Land called her contest with Peters "the hottest Senate race in the country."

She dismissed The News' poll and a survey released Tuesday by Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group that showed her trailing by 11 percentage points.

"There's a lot at stake here — the direction of our country, the fact the Michigan is coming back ... and we want to make sure that recovery continues here," Land said.

"That's why I'm fighting for good-paying jobs, balancing the budget, getting great roads here in our state, putting Michigan first (and) repealing and replacing Obamacare."

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