updated 10/18/2006 10:27:12 AM ET 2006-10-18T14:27:12

The Republican Party placed $700,000 in television ads in Ohio Tuesday, a scaled-back ad campaign amid growing doubts by party officials that GOP Sen. Mike DeWine can win re-election in the battleground state.

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The ads by the party are smaller than recent million-dollar ad buys by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But party officials touted the ads as evidence that they were not abandoning the state or giving up on DeWine.

Strategists from both parties were following the Republican steps closely because the GOP had chosen Ohio, Tennessee and Missouri as political fortifications against a Democratic takeover of the Senate. Democrats need a net gain of six seats to win control of the Senate.

Polls this week in Ohio show DeWine trailing his Democratic opponent, Rep. Sherrod Brown, by 7 to 12 percentage points.

Marshaling forces
Republican Party officials are turning their sights to Virginia to offer needed help to Sen. George Allen, who has been unable to stop a rapidly tightening race with Democrat Jim Webb. Virginia already is part of the party's aggressive voter turnout operation and party officials are said to be weighing a substantial ad campaign in the state as well. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee already is spending about $1.1 million on ads in Virginia against Allen. 2006 key races

Allen, once considered a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, holds a financial advantage in the campaign but has lost ground to Webb after a series of campaign mishaps. A recent Washington Post poll had Allen and Webb virtually tied, with Allen's lead within the poll's margin of error.

Republicans, looking to pick up a potential Democratic Senate seat, spent $500,000 to air ads in New Jersey against Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who is being closely challenged by Republican Tom Kean Jr.

Democratic efforts
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, conceded Tuesday that New Jersey is the only Democratic-held seat where Democrats do not hold comfortable double-digit leads, but said the party can withstand a last-minute expenditure against a Democratic senator.

"We believe we have the ability on defense should they put a lot of money in one state, particularly a blue state, to answer it," he said.

He would not say which state, but did not dispute a suggestion that Democrats may counter the money Republicans are spending in New Jersey.

New battlegrounds
Republicans were also taking a second look at some House races they once considered safe from Democrats.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is paying for polling in the Kentucky congressional district of Rep. Anne Northup and the Pennsylvania district of Rep. Melissa Hart. Such polls usually are commissioned to determine whether the party needs to put in resources to help a candidate in trouble.

In another new battleground, both parties signaled that they will begin airing television ads in GOP Rep. Gil Gutknecht's re-election race in Minnesota, a campaign not previously considered competitive.

Both parties have also stepped up their spending on other means of reaching voters, particularly direct mail and automated phone calls. Since Friday, the National Republican Congressional Committee has about $350,000 in mailings and phone banks, most critical of Democratic candidates. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported more than $550,000 spent on phone banks, mostly against Republican candidates.

The NRCC also reported airing about $2 million in television commercials in nine highly competitive congressional districts. Republicans have hope they can hold onto the seat of former Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned in the midst of a scandal over sexually explicit electronic messages to teenage male pages. The NRCC reported spending more than $270,000 on an ad opposing the Democratic candidate for the seat, Tim Mahoney.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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