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GOP Vows Commitment To Ohio Senator

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 9: Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH), gestures during a news conference at the Russell Senate Office Building on Captiol Hill February 9, 2005 in Washington, DC. DeWine and other members of congress introduced the Guard and Reserve Readiness and Retention Act of 2005 at the news conference.
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A GOP official denied a New York Times report that Republicans are diverting money from Sen. Mike DeWine's, R-Ohio, campaign because they have concluded that his is a lost cause in the November 7 election.

According to the newspaper, the party's decision to reduce support of DeWine's bid is evidence that the GOP is honing in on a few races they believe can help them maintain control in the Senate and House.

However, Dan Ronayne, press secretary for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), told CBSNews.com that the "premise of the [New York Times] story is just off."

"The notion that we've given up on the race is absurd because all polling on the race is very close," Ronayne said. It's a "preposterous notion" that the GOP has in any way given up on a DeWine victory.

NRSC-funded ads for DeWine are still running, and frequently, in Ohio and there is still more money to be spent on encouraging voter turnout.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman held a conference call today to debunk the charge that the GOP has dismissed the possibility of victory in the Senate race.

"The only reason I'm doing this, which I've never done in many years of campaigns, is to push back on an inaccurate story," Mehlman told reporters. "I have talked to Senator DeWine when I saw the story, I told him it is inaccurate."

Mehlman explained that both the NRSC and the RNC "remain strongly committed to helping Senator DeWine win this race with significant amounts of resources."

DeWine's spokesman, Brian Seitchik, told the Times that "we've been pleased with the support we've received" from the RNC. DeWine's campaign currently has $4.5 million on hand, a substantial advantage over Brown.

Meanwhile, scandal has rocked other Buckeye politicians of late.

Ohio Republicans are trying to regroup amid a guilty plea Friday by U.S. Rep. Bob Ney in a Washington influence-peddling case and the trial of GOP fundraiser Tom Noe — accused of stealing from a state investment in rare coins — set to begin next week. Their national counterparts are following suit, focusing every last penny on races they believe they can win.

Those include DeWine's seat; U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce's seat, which Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy is seeking; and the seat Ney is vacating, which the party hopes state Rep. Joy Padgett can win over Democrat Zach Space.

"As races change, dynamics change," said Ed Patru, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "We're not going to continue spending money in races where we're significantly ahead and, conversely, in some races if it looks to be out of reach, you're not going to dump a bunch of money into it."

In recent days, the committee pulled advertising it had planned in the race between Republican Craig Foltin and Democrat Betty Sutton for Brown's open House seat, which the GOP initially thought it could wrest from Democrats. The committee also viewed the seat being vacated by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, who is running for governor, as a potential gain, but has backed away from that hope.

Strickland has held a double-digit lead in the polls in that race, which is drawing national attention because the winner's party will carry an edge into the 2008 presidential election. A narrow win in Ohio gave President Bush the electoral votes he needed for re-election in 2004.

Without mentioning specifics, Patru said open seats have been judged less important than those held by incumbents. He said the committee is still optimistic about 10 to 12 seats that are open or held by Democrats nationwide, and believes Democrats have also adjusted their early expectations.

Meanwhile, after an aggressive early advertising push, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Blackwell, Ohio's secretary of state, has disappeared from the airwaves — a surprising turn of events for the leading candidate on the party's ticket.

A one-time strategy called for the RGA to air its own ads in support of Blackwell, but the governor's group appears to have written off the state.

In a letter to supporters earlier this month, the group's chairman, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, listed Iowa, Maine, Oregon, Illinois, Arkansas and Michigan as the only states with targeted governor's races.

RGA executive director Phil Musser said the letter has been misinterpreted, and that specific states were listed where money was still able to be spent under campaign finance limits.

"If we could send volunteers under the law in Ohio, we sure would," Musser said. "And any assertion that this is about how we view the race is ludicrous."

The Ohio Republican Party does not appear to be coming forward to fill the advertising void, choosing instead to put its resources into the races for secretary of state and state auditor.

Blackwell said Friday he is not disappointed with the support he has received.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.