Crossroads Targets 6 Senate Races With $4.6 Million Ad Buy

Crossroads Targets 6 Senate Races With $4.6 Million Ad Buy

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - June 13, 2012

A deep-pocketed conservative group has put $4.6 million behind a new series of biting television ads that target six highly competitive U.S. Senate contests. The outcomes of those races could wrest control of the upper chamber from Democrats.

American Crossroads, a Republican super PAC founded by Karl Rove, launched a $2.6 million buy in Nebraska, Nevada and Virginia, painting the Democratic candidates there as disconnected from the people they are running to represent. The group’s political advocacy arm, Crossroads GPS, spent $2 million on three issue-based ads in Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio, tying the Democratic candidates there to President Obama’s policies.

Republicans need a net gain of four seats in November to win control of the Senate, and have placed their most serious bets on solidly red Nebraska and North Dakota, where Democrats Ben Nelson and Kent Conrad are retiring, and in Missouri, a Republican-leaning state where Democrat Claire McCaskill is considered among the most vulnerable Senate incumbents.

In Nebraska, Crossroads is running a 30-second spot labeling Democrat Bob Kerrey as “out of touch.” Kerrey, a former governor and senator from the Cornhusker State, recently returned to Nebraska after living in New York City for 12 years while running The New School there. Republicans' main line of attack against him is the issue of residency. The ad features of clip of Kerrey mentioning Greenwich Village and saying, “The longer I’ve been here, the further to the left I get on health care. “ The spot also hits him for opposing a balanced budget amendment in the 1990s.

Crossroads GPS is running 30-second ads hitting McCaskill and North Dakota candidate (and former state attorney general) Heidi Heitkamp on Democratic initiatives. The Missouri spot features a picture of McCaskill shaking hands with the president and calls her a key Obama adviser who supports "reckless" government spending. The spot cites seemingly frivolous stimulus-backed expenditures such as ski lifts and ant collecting. The North Dakota ad hits Heitkamp for voicing support for the president’s health care law and its attendant cuts to Medicare.

The GOP also sees a real opportunity in battleground Virginia, where Democrat Jim Webb is retiring and where the Senate race heavily depends on presidential coattails. Crossroads is airing a 30-second spot hitting Democrat Tim Kaine with what Republicans see as his greatest liability: his service to Obama as Democratic National Committee chairman. The ad accuses Kaine, a former Old Dominion governor, of going to Washington and leaving Virginia behind, and putting “partisan ambitions first.” Kaine will face Republican George Allen, a former governor and senator, in November.

In an ad airing in the Buckeye State, Crossroads also goes after Democrat Sherrod Brown for supporting the president. The Senate race there is expected to be a close contest mostly because of the amount of money outside groups, like Crossroads, are expected to spend. The group hits Brown for backing the health care law, in particular his comment that “this bill pays for itself -- actually reduces the deficit.” The narrator says, “Talk is cheap, but in Ohio, it’s costing us a fortune.” Brown is competing for a second term against Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel. Ohio isn’t necessarily a prime target for Republicans vying for Senate control, but the party figures that pinning Brown to Obama in this vital presidential battleground, combined with the influence of outside groups, can at least narrow the margins and force Democrats to spend money.

Republicans currently hold only one of the six seats targeted by the Crossroads ad blitz: Nevada. The group is airing one of its hardest-hitting spots against Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, highlighting an ethics investigation into whether the congresswoman used her position to help her husband’s business. “Shelley Berkley makes the system work -- for herself,” says the ad's narrator. Berkley is challenging Sen. Dean Heller, who was appointed to the post after John Ensign resigned amid an ethics scandal of his own.

Democrats say the ads suggest that the Republican candidates would be beholden to special interests “Karl Rove . . . wouldn’t be investing in these races if he didn’t think he was going to get loyal votes for his reckless policies in return,” said Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "Republicans know that this agenda is wrong for the middle class and that’s why they’re launching misleading, desperate attacks to try and distract from their dangerous policies.” 

Earlier this month, the group launched a $7 million ad buy in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, attacking the president on the national debt and encouraging constituents to “tell Obama: Stop the spending.” 

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

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