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Embattled McCaskill Hits Outside Groups in Ad

Embattled McCaskill Hits Outside Groups in Ad

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - February 23, 2012


Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill released her first television ad Thursday, hitting back at the chief antagonist thus far in her re-election bid: outside groups.

Representing the increasingly red state of Missouri, the Democrat is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents this cycle. The first-term senator has been the target of attack ads sponsored by such groups as American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which have criticized her support of President Obama's health care law and its contraception-coverage mandate.

McCaskill's campaign is now returning fire with $205,000 worth of broadcast and cable ads running through the end of the month, a Republican source who tracks ad spending told RCP. It's a substantial buy this early in the season.

"They're not from around here, spending millions to attack and attack," says the ad's narrator. "But what they're doing to Claire McCaskill is nothing compared to what their special-interest agenda will do to you. They want to end Medicare as we know it. Claire fights to protect it. They want more tax breaks for multimillionaires and oil companies. Claire cuts taxes for the middle class. They back unfair trade deals for China. Claire says, 'Make it in Missouri.' "

McCaskill's campaign said the outside groups have spent $3.8 million on ads critical of her. "Claire’s stepped on a lot of big toes in Washington and now these corporate special interests are spending a lot of money on vicious attacks in a desperate effort to get rid of her,” said her campaign manager, Adrianne Marsh, in a statement.

Tackling these groups on air this early shows McCaskill is "anticipating big money being raised against her," said Kenneth Warren, a Missouri pollster and a professor at Saint Louis University.

"She is probably trying to form impressions among Missouri voters about those kind of ads against her," he said. "First impressions count, and she might be trying to minimize the impact of those [negative ads] by talking about where this money is coming from." But the senator will likely have help from outside groups, too.

McCaskill, who narrowly won her first term in 2006 despite a Democratic wave that year, was among the earliest supporters of then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008, and national Republicans are tying her to the president's policies. Obama lost Missouri by a narrow margin, and is not expected to take the state in 2012.

Three Republicans -- Rep. Todd Akin, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and St. Louis businessman John Brunner -- are vying to challenge McCaskill, but it is unclear who her general election opponent is likely to be. Brunner began running negative ads against McCaskill in October, a day after he announced his Senate bid. According to early polls, Steelman is leading the Republican field, but each of the candidates runs neck-and-neck against McCaskill. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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