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Blake Masters warned to lift more cash against Mark Kelly

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Republican leaders and megadonors are warning Arizona GOP Senate candidate Blake Masters to enhance his fundraising, or else be doomed in his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in November’s election, based on people aware of the matter.

Masters has received urgent private calls in recent weeks from GOP leaders equivalent to Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the pinnacle of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, these people explained. The NRSC is the official campaign arm for Senate Republicans, and has spent over $6 million taking over Masters’ rival Kelly, based on data from the nonpartisan OpenSecrets.

Kelly’s seat has long been considered a possible pickup opportunity for Republicans, as forecaster Cook Political Report labels the race a toss up. Recent polling, nevertheless, suggests that Masters is falling behind. A Fox News poll taken in August shows Kelly leading Masters by 8 points. An Arizona Republican pollster told NBC News that his own surveys showed Masters trailing Kelly by 10 points.

Longtime GOP megadonors, who need to help Masters overtake Kelly but haven’t heard from him since he won the party’s primary, have inundated the Republican candidate with calls, these people explained.

An individual aware of one among the recent calls to Masters said a veteran GOP financier “read him the riot act” and told him, partially, that he must start raising money from more wealthy Republican donors and stop counting on billionaire tech executive Peter Thiel, his longtime colleague and friend, to assist him like he did in the first. These people declined to be named so as to speak freely about private conversations.

Shortly after publication of this story, Katie Miller, a spokeswoman for the Masters campaign, denied that the candidate ever heard from a GOP megadonor who “read him the riot act.” Miller told CNBC in an email: “It didn’t occur.”

Kelly has massively outraised Masters, who won a Republican primary in Arizona this month. The incumbent’s campaign has brought in greater than $54 million through the 2022 election cycle, compared with just over $4 million for Masters’ campaign, based on the newest Federal Election Commission data.

Thiel contributed $15 million through the primary to a pro-Masters super PAC, Saving Arizona. He donated $1.5 million to the committee as recently as July. Masters was the chief operating officer at Thiel Capital, an investment firm founded by Thiel.

The calls to Masters come as even some Republican leaders appear to be questioning their Senate candidates. When asked about his predictions for the midterms, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said “candidate quality” has so much to do with winning Senate elections. He added that he believes there will probably be an “extremely close Senate” after November’s elections.

The Senate is currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.

In an announcement to CNBC, NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline didn’t deny that Scott called Masters to induce him to enhance his fundraising operation.

“Mark Kelly votes with Joe Biden almost 100% of the time. While he claims to be a moderate, he’s supported reckless Washington spending and done nothing to handle the border crisis that is raging in Arizona. The NRSC will proceed to remind Arizona voters of Mark Kelly’s radical agenda and Blake Masters’ plans to fight for Arizona families,” Hartline said in response to questions on Scott’s contact with Masters.

Data from ad tracker AdImpact shows that the NRSC has booked just over $3.8 million in ads in Arizona for September, but nothing yet for October or November. The ad tracker also shows that Masters’ campaign has not yet booked airtime for the autumn, while Kelly’s team has reserved over $10 million in ad space from September through November.

AdImpact says it has not yet seen data showing the Thiel-backed Saving Arizona reserve airtime for the autumn. The last spending it saw from the super PAC was on Aug. 2, the day of the Arizona Senate Republican primary. The super PAC spent over $10 million through the primary, including almost $8.5 million backing Masters, based on OpenSecrets.

Masters and his campaign didn’t return requests for comment. A spokesman for Saving Arizona didn’t return requests for comment. Thiel and his spokesman didn’t return requests for comment, including about whether the billionaire GOP donor plans to assist Masters further.

The candidates and outdoors groups from each side of the aisle have combined to spend over $90 million in the overall election Senate race in Arizona. Yet, Democratic organizations seem like outspending their Republican rivals within the Grand Canyon State on ads in the approaching months.

AdImpact’s data show Democratic outside groups are reserving nearly $28 million price of ad time in Arizona over the subsequent three months. Republican committees have to this point spent just over $16 million on ad buys inside the same time span attempting to help Masters overtake Kelly, based on the info.

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