WASHINGTON — The Republican establishment's favorite political machine is adding Colorado to the states where it will be advertising this fall, booking more than $6 million in television time and taking its post-Labor Day media budget to more than $26 million.
The Karl Rove-backed Crossroads GPS on Tuesday ordered TV ads in Colorado starting Sept. 23 and running through Oct. 20 to help Republican Cory Gardner, a House member looking to move his office across Capitol Hill to the Senate. Heavy spending in Colorado has already marked Gardner's race against first-term Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. Data compiled by the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation shows that Colorado race is approaching the $18 million mark.
The high spending shows just how competitive Colorado and a handful of other Senate races are shaping up to be. Republicans are gunning to pick up six Senate seats and, with them, control of the chamber for the first time since after the 2006 midterm elections.
Udall's top aide, in a memo to allies, lamented the lopsided nature of the spending and cast theirs as the underdog campaign.
"Rep. Gardner and his allies are running three times as many ads as we are this week," campaign chief Adam Dunstone wrote, adding it was only going to get worse after Labor Day. "When we're being outspent 3-to-1 on the air, getting our message out represents a real challenge."
Outside groups from both parties are ready to blanket airwaves to help favored candidates. The liberal Senate Majority PAC began July with almost $30 million ready to unleash to help Democrats hold the Senate and updated fundraising reports due Wednesday are expected to show millions more raised.
At the same time, both parties' official Senate campaign arms report almost $60 million in the bank, ready to help allies.
The frenetic pace of advertising is underway in other races as well.
On Tuesday, Crossroads GPS started running $1.5 million in ads in Colorado, Arkansas and Iowa to help Republicans in competitive Senate races.
The group also started a $1.6 million advertising campaign in two competitive House districts in California. The group is also spending $1.5 million on ads in a pair of House districts in Illinois and a hard-fought race in West Virginia.
Spending is expected to escalate quickly after Labor Day, the unofficial start to campaign season, when voters start making decisions. The American Crossroads super PAC has booked $5.5 million in Alaska starting Sept. 9 against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich. That same day, a $3.3 million ad blitz is set to start in Iowa against Rep. Bruce Braley, who is seeking the open Senate seat.
Later that month, American Crossroads planned to start an almost $1.7 million in Montana ads on Sept. 23. But that ad time was booked before Democratic Sen. John Walsh decided not to seek the seat to which he was appointed. Ad buyers can still modify that ad order.
Crossroads' nonprofit, Crossroads GPS, also has $2.5 million set to start on Sept. 2 in Arkansas' Senate race and another $5.1 million set to start Sept. 30 in North Carolina's race. Crossroads GPS also has set aside $2.1 million ad time starting Oct. 7 against endangered Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.
The Crossroads duo is a favorite for GOP establishment donors and counts George W. Bush adviser Rove among its strategists. The American Crossroads super PAC can accept unlimited donations but must disclose who gives to it. Crossroads GPS technically is a non-profit group and does not engage in electoral politics, so it can keep its donors' identities secret.