National Republicans targeting Maine’s 2nd Congressional District said Friday they have reserved $1.5 million in television ad time in the state through Election Day.

The news from the National Republican Congressional Committee came on Friday night, the same day a Democratic group began running ads attacking Republican Bruce Poliquin, who is running against Democrat Emily Cain and independent conservative Blaine Richardson for the seat.

Ian Prior, a spokesman for the NRCC, the campaign arm for House Republicans, said ads will begin running on Tuesday in the Portland and Bangor markets. The time is reserved through Nov. 4, when Maine voters will decide who replaces Democrat U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who is running for governor.

The reservation dwarfs a $268,000 purchase announced on Thursday by the House Majority PAC, a group supporting Democratic congressional candidates.

Given what the party has spent so far on other races, the amount is a signal that Republicans think they can win the seat, which has been held by Democrats since 1995.

The NRCC has only spent $1.5 million or more on one race so far this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It only spent $81,000 on Republican Kevin Raye’s behalf in his 2012 race against Michaud.

“We’re thrilled to see such a strong showing of support for Bruce and confidence in his ability to win this race,” David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, said in a statement.

The House Majority PAC’s first ad attacked Poliquin, 60, a former state treasurer from Oakland, on his health care stances. But it’s unknown what the NRCC’s ad will hit first. Prior said the ad was unavailable on Friday night.

However, the NRCC has spent money chiefly on attacks so far this campaign cycle, spending nearly $2 million alone to oppose a Democratic candidate in Florida.

The ad buy spurred some back and forth between the two camps Friday night.

“After 12 years of lackluster representation in Washington, people in northern and western Maine are ready for Bruce Poliquin to go to Congress and work across the aisle to pay down debt, clean up broken federal agencies, and get our economy moving again,” Sorensen said. “With her votes against welfare reform and for higher taxes, Emily Cain is too extreme and too liberal for rural Maine.”

Marc Brumer of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a news release the ad shows, “Congressional Republicans are clearly confident that they can count on Bruce Poliquin to rubberstamp their reckless agenda that stacks the deck in favor of the ultra-wealthy and the special interests by shifting the burden onto hard working middle class Maine families.”

The 2nd District seat is increasingly being prioritized by Republicans, who brought House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to Portland for a closed-door fundraiser with Poliquin on Thursday.

The district leans Democratic, but it’s more conservative than the rest of Maine, and the 2014 election cycle is expected to favor Republicans nationally in a midterm year for Democratic President Barack Obama.

So far the race has polled close, with Cain, 34, a Democratic state senator from Orono, Poliquin’s top opponent. Cain’s campaign spokesman didn’t respond to a call seeking comment on Friday evening.

The only independent poll, from the Portland Press Herald in June, had Cain up on Poliquin 44 percent to 39 percent, a difference that was within the margin of error.

But independent conservative Blaine Richardson of Belfast is also in the race, and some have suggested he could take votes from Poliquin, who has asked Richardson to drop out.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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