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Senate Republicans flood West Virginia airwaves with new ads

1. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is ramping up its commitment in the West Virginia Senate race with new radio and newspaper ads running today.

In the radio ads, Gov. Joe Manchin (D) is quoted saying he is "totally behind health care reform", a position he has since backed away from -- noting in his own television ads that he would work to repeal parts of the law.

"Joe Manchin used to be somebody we could count on, but then Obama and Washington came calling," says the ad's narrator. "Joe Manchin changed."

In a new full-page ad funded by the NRSC and running in four of the biggest newspapers in the Mountain State, the theme is the same.

It features a picture of Obama standing next to Manchin, who is speaking at a podium. "When President Obama needed Joe Manchin's support, Joe Manchin delivered," reads the headline.

The ad recycles some of the GOP's greatest hits against Manchin -- his past statements supportive of the $800 billion economic stimulus package, the health care legislation and a cap and trade energy bill.

It closes with the line: "A vote for Manchin is a vote for Obama."

The ad is set to run in the Charleston Gazette, Charleston Daily Mail, Beckley Register-Herald and the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.

The ad wars have taken off in West Virginia in recent days. First, an NRSC ad caught unwanted attention because a talent agency asked for "hicky" actors. Manchin used the flap to launch an ad that said GOP nominee John Raese "thinks you're hicks." Then, Manchin launched another ad Monday in which he literally shoots the congressional cap and trade bill with a rifle. (Not. Kidding.)

Got all that? All of the back and forth is confirmation that this race is very close and Manchin is -- amazingly -- in the fight of his political life.

2. In their second debate of the race to succeed retiring Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning , Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D) came out aggressively against ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R), taking aim at the Republican's stance on the drug abuse problem in the Bluegrass State as well as some of Paul's more controversial statements on the role of government.

"Rand Paul has said that drugs aren't a pressing issue and that nonviolent action should never be criminalized," Conway said in his opening statement. "Rand Paul is wrong."

Conway argued that Paul "would undo all that we have fought for since the Great Depression" on issues ranging from Medicare and Social Security to minimum wage laws and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Paul stayed largely positive in his opening remarks, describing his background as "a physician, not a career politician." But he did briefly take aim at President Obama, arguing that the president's "vision is that government is the answer to every economic ill, every social ill."

At one point, Paul charged that Conway "doesn't want to talk about his support for President Obama and all of President Obama's initiatives. That's what this election's about, and he's trying to run away from it."

Conway shot back that "this election is not about President Obama. This election is about Jack Conway versus Rand Paul." The Democrat also reiterated that he's in favor of extending the Bush tax cuts. "On the issue of taxes, I'm not like a lot of typical Democrats," Conway said.

As he has in past debates, Paul defended himself against charges of extremism. "I'm proud of being an outsider, and I'm proud of the things I stand for: term limits, balanced budget amendment, reading the bills," Paul said. "These hardly sound like very extreme ideas."

The debate took place after former President Bill Clinton swooped into the Bluegrass State on behalf of Conway.

Speaking to a crowd of about 5,000 at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Clinton said Conway is "a practical, progressive common-sense moderate who has actually done things and actually has a plan, running against a man with radical ideas and no record to back it up."

Clinton added that voters are "hurting, confused and mad" and said that Republicans are trying to take advantage of their vulnerability. "Don't buy it. Don't let them play you," Clinton said.

3. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is holding a fundraiser for his American Solutions political action committee in Washington today, according to an invitation obtained by the Fix, an event sure to stoke speculation about his interest in a 2012 presidential bid.

The fundraiser, which will be held at the Caucus Room, has three levels of giving: host ($5,000 contribution), co-host ($2,500) and $1,000 contribution to attend.

A Gingrich spokesman did not return an email seeking comment about the event.

Gingrich has raised just $209,000 through his federal PAC so far this year, spending the vast majority of his time and energy collecting for the American Solutions 527 arm, which can accept unlimited contributions. Between April 1 and June 30, Gingrich raised better than $3 million into the 527.

Unlike other potential presidential candidates like former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.) and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Gingrich has not doled out much money to aspiring candidates via his PAC. As of the end of August, the American Solutions PAC had donated $5,000 to other candidates -- including $1,000 to state Sen. Brad Zaun (R) who is challenging Iowa Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) in the 3rd district.

A stepped-up fundraising commitment to his federal PAC could signal that Gingrich is getting more serious about a bid although questions continue to linger about his ability to stay on message -- or close to it -- for the length of a presidential race.

4. The National Republican Congressional Committee bought another $8 million worth of ads in 56 districts, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The spending brings to almost $20 million the amount the NRCC has spend on independent expenditure ads this year. The committee is approaching half of the $45 million it has said it will expend on the most competitive House races this fall.

The NRCC is running its its first flight of ads in eight new districts held by Democrats including a few they hadn't been targeting at all until recently: Reps. Tim Walz (Minn.), Phil Hare (Ill.) and Charlie Wilson (Ohio).

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running ads in 47 districts to date but has spent much less than Republican -- only about $12 million. The committee faces tough choices in the coming days about which districts it might have to concede by canceling ad reservations as the playing field continues to widen to more and more unexpected districts.

Most television stations require the committees to cancel their ad reservations two weeks in advance, meaning Tuesday is the last day either the NRCC or DCCC could cancel their ad reservations for the final week of the campaign and avoid having to pay for the time.

The DCCC made its first difficult choice in Ohio's 1st district, where the committee has canceled its ad buy in support of freshman Rep. Steve Driehaus -- a sign that the race is likely lost. Former Rep. Steve Chabot (R) is a clear favorite.

5. State Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D) is up with a new TV ad in the race to succeed term-limited South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), a hard-hitting spot that indicates Democrats are increasingly optimistic about their chances against state Rep. Nikki Haley (R).

The 30-second ad opens with side-by-side photos of Haley and the scandal-plaugued Sanford and asks, "Can we afford another governor who says one thing and does another?"

The spot then challenges several statements made by Haley on her fiscal conservatism, slamming her for paying her taxes late, failing to disclose more than $40,000 in consulting work and supporting federal stimulus funding.

"This time, we need a governor we can trust," the narrator concludes.

Sheheen's new spot follows on one aired by Haley last month in which she paints Sheheen as "a liberal who backs the Obama health care and spending disasters."

Little reliable public polling has been done in the race, but a survey conducted by Democratic pollster Hamilton Campaigns late last week indicated that the race is more competitive than previously thought. The survey showed Haley taking 49 percent to Sheheen's 44 percent among likely voters, with seven percent undecided.

Sheheen remains the underdog, however, due to the clear Republican tilt of South Carolina and the GOP winds blowing across the country.

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | October 12, 2010; 7:33 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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