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Smart: NRSC Reallocating Funds from Florida to California, Illinois

Political chess moves, in spades:

Confident of keeping a seat, Senate Republicans are canceling $4 million in TV ads for Florida's Marco Rubio to put more money toward winning a trio of Democratic-held seats - in California, Pennsylvania and Illinois - where polls show races tightening.

In Florida, Rubio 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.

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 GOP moves come as Senate Democrats all but pull out of Missouri, dramatically scaling back spending in that state, and boost spending by $2 million in Nevada to help save endangered Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.

This AP report brings nearly unalloyed good news for Republicans:

(1) Rubio is in such good shape, the NRSC feels liberated to move big dollars elsewhere.  This indicates national Republicans feel confident that there won't be any Kendrick Meek/Charlie Crist funny business down the stretch.

(2) Democrats are essentially waving the white flag in Missouri.  A Red-to-Blue flip in the Senate ain't happening in 2010.*

(3) Winnable races in Illinois and California--in which the Democratic candidates are especially loathsome--will receive beaucoup resources to help bolster Republican candidates.  Based on my conversations with plugged-in sources on the ground in Illinois and California, I read these moves as follows: The NRSC smells blood in Illinois, where Alexi Giannoulias is sputtering; and sincerely believes Fiorina is still very much in the hunt against Barbara Boxer.  John Cornyn isn't pouring nearly $5 million into that race just to keep the margin respectable.  He, and the Fiorina campaign, believe she can win.

(4) Harry Reid is in serious trouble.  Sharron Angle's solid debate performance last night only adds to the Democrats' heartburn in Nevada.  Reid going down would be a major embarrassment for the party, and the $2 million binge in Nevada smacks of a last-ditch effort.

(5) I'm a bit puzzled by the Pennsylvania move.  The article says insiders on both sides see the race tightening considerably, but Rasmussen shows the exact opposite dynamic.  It seems to me that those dollars might be better spent Alaska:

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Alaska shows Republican Joe Miller with 35% support and Murkowski, the incumbent senator he defeated in the state’s GOP Primary now running as a write-in candidate, with 34% of the vote. Democrat Scott McAdams runs third with 27%.

*Uh oh.

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