WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats are scaling back their spending in South Dakota, as recent polls show the Republican nominee, former Gov. Mike Rounds, moving ahead.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show Senate Democrats' campaign committee plans to spend $29,000 on ads between now and Nov. 3. That's after previously spending about $400,000 on broadcast and cable ads and at one point promising a total investment of roughly $1 million.
The reduced spending by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, often referred to as the DSCC, could be a sign that Democrats no longer view the South Dakota race as competitive. That's a potentially significant development in the race for control of the Senate, where Republicans need to net six seats to take control. The South Dakota seat, currently held by retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat, is viewed as a must-have for the GOP.
Four candidates are vying to replace Johnson: Rounds; Democrat Rick Weiland; former GOP Sen. Larry Pressler, who is running as an independent; and tea-party inspired independent Gordon Howie.
Signs of a reduced investment from national Democrats came one day after Weiland held an unusual press conference, attacking the DSCC's ad campaign in the state. He said the television spots run by the committee have hurt his campaign, tainting him by making look negative. He also said they were designed to boost the prospects of Pressler, not him.
After the event, Mayday PAC, a political action committee, announced it would invest a further $1 million on Weiland's behalf, bringing that group's total spending to roughly $2 million in the race. The group criticized the DSCC saying it had not followed through on its commitment to South Dakota and should have invested earlier in the contest.
Overall, Rounds has outraised and outspent Weiland in the race. Outside groups are also spending for ads to support Rounds.
Weiland's repudiation of the DSCC's ad campaign came after two polls in recent days showed Rounds with a lead in the race.
A Sioux Falls Argus Leader/KELO-TV poll released on Monday found Rounds with the support of 42 percent in a four-way race with Weiland at 33 percent, Pressler at 13 percent and Howie at 2 percent. Another poll, conducted by NBC News and Marist University, had Rounds with 43 percent, Weiland with 29 percent, Pressler with 16 percent and Howie with 3 percent.
The same documents that show Democrats cutting back their spending indicate Republicans plan to maintain a robust presence on airwaves in South Dakota. The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, Senate Republicans' campaign arm, has booked more than $340,000 for ads in South Dakota between now and Election Day, although both parties can change their plans.