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Outside groups pummel vulnerable senators in early wave of television advertising

WASHINGTON — The midterm congressional elections are months away, but well-funded outside groups already are dominating the airwaves in what will be a multi-million dollar brawl for control of the Senate.

Political groups have funded more than 70% of the early television spots that have aired in key Senate battlegrounds, according to a USA TODAY tally of advertising data compiled by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), which tracks political advertising.

The analysis examined the top spenders in 16 states where Senate-focused advertising aired between Jan. 1, 2017 and early February of this year. The five states with the heaviest spending so far: Nevada, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona and West Virginia, home to what will be among the fiercest fights for control of the Senate.

Only one Senate incumbent from those five states had taken to the airwaves through early February: Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, viewed as 2018’s most vulnerable Republican. Heller, the only sitting Republican on the ballot from a state won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, faces a primary challenge from Danny Tarkanian, a perennial candidate who has aligned himself closely with President Trump in this race.

Given the high stakes of the midterms, “you are going to see the airwaves in certain states totally flooded with ads,” said Kyle Kondik, who analyzes elections at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics

Republicans, who now hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, face the headwinds of an unpopular president, energized Democratic activists upset about Trump’s surprise victory over Clinton

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