DSCC - NATL JOURNAL: Club for Growth Eyes NH Senate Primary

While the Florida primary will be the marquee intraparty battle for the GOP in 2010, Chocola said the Club for Growth is looking at getting involved in other races, including the contest to replace GOP Sen. Judd Gregg in New Hampshire.

"We're doing our research on that one," he said, but unlike in Florida, "we're not close to a decision there."

 http://www.nationaljournal.com/congressdaily/cda_20091029_7172.php

SENATE RACES

Club For Growth Eyes Underdog In Florida Contest

Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009

After seeing how its backing of Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman turns out in a Nov. 3 special election for the New York House seat previously held by Army Secretary John McHugh, the Club for Growth will turn its attention to the Florida Senate primary between GOP Gov. Charlie Crist and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

While Crist is the well-funded frontrunner, Rubio has started lapping up endorsements from national conservative leaders and groups in his upstart bid to become the GOP nominee in the race to succeed former GOP Sen. Mel Martinez, who resigned this fall.

Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said he expects the organization will decide whether to get involved in the race by the end of the year.

"It's no secret we like Rubio," Chocola said in an interview. "We're looking at the same FEC reports as everyone else."

Those reports showed Rubio bringing in more than $1 million in the third quarter, a surprisingly strong number for someone taking on a candidate who was supposed to be a lock for the nomination.

While the Club's backing would provide a boost for Rubio, several Republican operatives in Washington and Florida questioned whether the group has the financial capacity to wade into such a massive state with 10 media markets, especially since the Club is already supporting its former president, former GOP Rep. Pat Toomey, in the Pennsylvania Senate race.

One veteran Florida Republican said it would take an outside organization roughly $5 million to make an impact on a statewide race there.

At the end of September, the Club for Growth's PAC had just more than $420,000 on hand and spent at least $377,000 in October on behalf of Hoffman in the New York House race.

Club for Growth members bundled an additional $315,000 for Hoffman, according to the organization. "Our members have never been more enthusiastic," given the impact they've had on the House race, said Andy Roth, a Club for Growth spokesman. And, although Roth wasn't able to provide specifics, he said donations have rolled in this month and that the group has plenty of time ahead of the Aug. 24 Senate primary in Florida if it decides to get involved.

While Rubio waits for the Club for Growth's decision, his fundraising operation hasn't rested. Campaign aides say he has added about 1,000 new contributors in October since the last quarterly report was unveiled.

Crist, meanwhile, has put together the heftiest back-to-back fundraising quarters of any Senate candidate nationwide and still swamps the competition in a money battle. Party sources said Crist is also on the verge of adding some top staffers to his campaign.

While the Florida primary will be the marquee intraparty battle for the GOP in 2010, Chocola said the Club for Growth is looking at getting involved in other races, including the contest to replace GOP Sen. Judd Gregg in New Hampshire.

"We're doing our research on that one," he said, but unlike in Florida, "we're not close to a decision there."

by Erin McPike