ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The National Republican Senatorial Committee has pulled plans for a $3 million ad buy to support New Mexico Senate candidate Heather Wilson, a move widely seen as acknowledgment that the state has turned less competitive than the GOP has hoped in both the Senate and presidential races.
Party and campaign officials confirmed that the committee has canceled previously reserved air time. The move comes as environmental groups supporting Wilson's Democratic opponent, Rep. Martin Heinrich, have spent nearly $1.5 million attacking Wilson.
"It is significant," said Brian Sanderoff, president of New Mexico's largest political research and polling company, Research & Polling in Albuquerque.
Internal polls must be turning against Wilson, Sanderoff said.
"The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, like all groups, has limited resources, so they carefully target their expenditures to the states that they perceive as being most competitive, which either means holding on to a current seat or displacing a Democrat," Sanderoff said. "And they are pragmatic in their decisions.
"So what it all means is that they feel their money could be better spent elsewhere."
The NRSC is shifting the money to a tightening Senate race in North Dakota.
Still, the group could come back to New Mexico later. Some political groups reserved time early, fearing that if the presidential race was close here, all available air time for political ads would be snapped up. But New Mexico is no longer considered a battleground between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
"This is a very fluid election season all across the country and it is highly likely spending decisions will be made and remade by outside groups multiple times in the coming weeks," said Wilson campaign spokesman Chris Sanchez. "We will keep focusing on jobs and getting our economy back on track and running our race."
Indeed, both candidates have been campaigning aggressively since the day after the June primary. They are vying to succeed retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat.
Environmental groups jumped in with ads attacking Wilson almost immediately. According to the Center for Responsive Politics' opensecrets.org campaign spending website, the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund, Defenders of Wildlife Action and others have spent nearly $1.5 million against Wilson.
Additionally, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has spent $141,415 on ads in the Senate race.
Still, Wilson is not without her own television defenders. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Crossroads political action committee have spent nearly $1 million combined to support her, according to the website.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.