Major Democratic group pulls out of Colorado Senate race

FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2020, file photo Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, right, and Democratic former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper participate in a debate in Denver. Gardner is poised to be one of the votes that places President Donald Trump's nominee Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court just before the election. (Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via AP, Pool, File) (Hyoung Chang, Copyright - 2020 The Denver Post, MediaNews Group.)

DENVER – A major Democratic group on Friday pulled its last remaining ads from Colorado's closely watched U.S. Senate race, a sign that the party thinks its nominee has the crucial race in the bag.

Senate Majority PAC said it will cancel $1.2 million in television ads and spend the money elsewhere as Democrats press a newly expanded Senate map, which Republicans on the run in GOP strongholds such as Alaska and South Carolina.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, 68, is challenging Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, 46, in Colorado, a state that has trended sharply to the left since President Donald Trump's 2016 election.

“We believe Gov. Hickenlooper is in good shape heading into the final stretch,” Senate Majority PAC spokeswoman Rachel Irwin said.

Republicans are privately pessimistic about Gardner's chances. The first-term senator is a skilled campaigner but has long been seen as one of the party's most vulnerable senators because of the state's changing political landscape. This week, Gardner reported raising $7 million in the prior quarter compared with Hickenlooper's $22.6 million — part of an overwhelming Democratic fundraising advantage that has become a staple of virtually every Senate race.

Republicans are still spending modestly to support Gardner. Last week the Republican counterpart to Senate Majority PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, added another $1 million to its spending in Colorado as part of a $22 million blitz to defend seats around the country.

Democrats need a net gain of three seats in the Senate and a victory in the presidential race in order to wrest control of the chamber. They have long counted on flipping the Colorado seat.