FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell faces a primary challenger in just a few weeks. To watch the television ad his campaign will begin running Tuesday, voters would never know it.
McConnell's campaign said Monday it was spending more than $100,000 on a new TV ad set to begin airing statewide on Tuesday. Gone is the anxiety that political newcomer Matt Bevin could deny McConnell a spot on November's ballot. Now the most powerful Republican in the Senate has turned his eyes toward improving his chances against his likely Democratic contender, Alison Lundergan Grimes.
"He's been called a hero for saving Kentucky jobs," the female narrator says in McConnell's ad.
The ad ticks off examples of how McConnell's team says he fought foreign trade to save jobs at a Louisville aluminum plant, protected military families at the Bluegrass Army Depot by securing funding for a chemical weapons disposal program and turning back government regulations that would have prevented fishing along the Cumberland River and its tributaries that are among the state's top tourist destinations.
"Mitch McConnell works for Kentucky jobs," the 30-second ad concludes.
The ad ignores Bevin, a businessman who has pumped $600,000 of his own cash into the campaign, and Grimes, who has more than $4.8 million banked for her races against McConnell. Instead, the ad feels like one that could easily air just weeks before November's elections.
McConnell, who ended March with almost $10.4 million in the bank, can easily afford the ad at this point.
But the message of the ad could indicate McConnell's worries. Just last month, a local newspaper quoted McConnell saying it was "not my job" to bring employment to a struggling Kentucky county. He said that role belonged to the state commerce department.
McConnell said his comments were taken out of context, but the latest ad suggests his team saw the gaffe as driving voters' perception of McConnell, especially as Grimes piled on criticism.
"McConnell's idea of a jobs plan is to beg DC lobbyists for money to save his job, while claiming it's not his responsibility to bring jobs back to Kentucky," Grimes' senior campaign adviser Jonathan Hurst said.
With just two weeks until Kentucky's primary, McConnell's ad seeks to combat both Grimes and Bevin, a one-time favorite of the tea party but whose campaign has failed to catch fire. The message in the ads helps paint a powerful Washington figure as someone who has his eye on jobs back home.
Bevin, meanwhile, is trying to raise $250,000 to turn one of his more popular web videos into a 30-second TV ad, according to his campaign spokeswoman. The video uses footage from McConnell's first Senate campaign in 1984 where McConnell criticizes his opponent for voting to raise the debt ceiling and not fighting to cut spending. The video has been viewed more than 15,000 times since Friday.
"Just in the past couple of weeks we've seen thousands of jobs losses across Kentucky," Bevin campaign spokeswoman Sarah Durand said. "All the pandering in the world from Mitch McConnell won't do anything to help those families affected."
Kentucky is perhaps one of Democrats' few opportunities to pick up a seat currently held by Republicans. As in Georgia, national Democrats are bullish on their chances of tipping the seat into Democratic hands.
But Democrats perhaps have a tougher path to keeping their majority standing in the Senate. If Republicans hold all of their seats — including McConnell's — and pick up six more seats, then the Kentucky lawmaker could become the top senator.
Elliott reported from Washington, D.C.
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