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Pro-Alito Ads Target Two Senate Dems

Seeking to capitalize on what they believe was Democrats' poor performance during last week's confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr., a conservative soft-money group is launching television ads against South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson and North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad this week designed to sway the two lawmakers' votes on the nominee and also soften them up for their future reelection races.

The ads, which are being funded by Coalition for Fair Judiciary, will run statewide in both Dakotas and cost the group "six figures" combined, according to Keith Appell, a spokesman for the group.  The coalition is a 501(c)(4) group, meaning that it does not need to disclose either its sources of funding or disbursements. Appell's firm -- Creative Response Concepts -- handled the public relations for the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth ads against John Kerry in 2004.

"The strategy of the pro-Alito coalition all along has been to emphasize to red state Democrats that you can either stand with the rest of America or stand with Ted Kennedy," said Appell.

Democrats retort that both Johnson and Conrad voted to confirm John Roberts as Supreme Court chief justice, a vote that gives both men "running room" on Alito, according to one Democratic Party strategist.

The ad targeting Johnson and Conrad was still in production as The Fix went to press with this post, but the content was expected to feature a number of editorial board endorsements for Alito's confirmation followed by a question of whether the two senators stand with their constituents or with Kennedy -- the liberal lion as beloved among Democratic loyalists as he is disdained by the Republican base. Neither Democrat has announced where he stands on Alito's confirmation but both represent states that went overwhelming for President Bush in 2004.

Appell characterized the ads -- being produced by Republican media consulting firm Sandler-Innocenzi -- as  the "initial phase of a larger campaign," adding: "If liberals like Ted Kennedy continue to make this an election year issue, this campaign will expand much larger and wider." Other states mentioned as potential targets include Arkansas (Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor) and Florida (Sen. Bill Nelson is up for reelection this year).

A high-level Republican operative, who was granted anonymity to speak freely about the strategic goals behind the ads, said they are backed by a belief that Democrats mishandled the Alito confirmation and in doing so have created a political opening for the GOP.

"Democrats have an enormous vulnerability there," said the operative. "The reality of what they did -- at the beck and call of liberal interest groups -- is unacceptable to the vast majority of voters in red America."

The source added that the blueprint being used against Conrad and Johnson is born of the success of a similar strategy used against then Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) in the run-up to his 2004 reelection race.  In that contest, a bevy of conservative interest groups ran ads on and off for several years painting Daschle as the chief obstructionist to Bush's legislative priorities in an attempt to weaken him in a state that voted for Bush by a 60 percent to 38 percent margin in 2004.

Daschle went on to lose to John Thune by 3,000 vote margin, a victory Republicans credit to their extended campaign to paint him outside of the state's mainstream.

Steve Hildebrand, Daschle's campaign manager in 2004, argued that the ads from outside groups had little effect on the ultimate outcome. "If they actually think that's why he lost, they can keep up those attacks," said Hildebrand.

Conrad is up for reelection in November but faces no major Republican opponent after the party failed to lure Gov. John Hoeven (R) into the contest. Johnson will stand for reelection in 2008 after surviving a near-death political experience against Thune in 2002.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 19, 2006; 6:23 PM ET
Categories:  Politics and the Court  
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Next: The Friday Line: GOP's Statehouse Challenge

Comments

Just who do these people with the soft money think they are, we all know that money talks thats why we have such a rotten Goverenment right but one day the American people will wake up & see what is really is going on in Washington & I think that day is very close & the people with the soft money will be on the outside looking in. It is such a shame that our Government is being bought &then brag about it

Posted by: Bernice Schmoyer | January 23, 2006 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Please ask Mr Hildebrand; What he
thinks is/are the reason(s) for Tom
Daschles' defeat.

Posted by: Steven Tenner | January 22, 2006 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Message from voting electorate re Sam Alito: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

To presume that anyone cares about how the Democratic senators vote is to take the lunatic fringe much too seriously.

Posted by: Judge Crater | January 22, 2006 8:30 AM | Report abuse

So many people have the solution,just ask them, why say anything.The whole government is out of control. You should see how the FAA is regulating general aviation out of business.

Posted by: redbaron | January 20, 2006 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Wonder who Alito will rule on spying on us citizens??? Here an interesting Bush Quote. It is from a story in the Colorado Daily...

Quote from Bush in 2004 --

"A wiretap requires a court order," President Bush declared in a statement in 2004. He added, "When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order when we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand [that] constitutional guarantees are in place... because we value the Constitution."

Posted by: john | January 20, 2006 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Is this one of those "inside the beltway" things? I have trouble imagining that my neighbors in the Dakotas will get all that fired up about the Alito vote. Not with oil at $67 a barrel and glitches in Medicare D affecting them or their parents.

Posted by: Minnesotan | January 20, 2006 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Someday the Republicans are going to be left with nothing but the wacko fundamentalists and super rich for a coalition. Then they will wonder why everyone else in the country deserted them. I wonder who they'll cast aspersions on then.

http://www.intrepidliberaljournal.blogspot.com

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal | January 20, 2006 1:38 AM | Report abuse

Why must it all be so slimey? When did it become all about the douchebaggery? While I myself plan to go into politics, sometimes it just sickens me the lengths to which people are prepared to go and the lives that they are prepared to ruin just to satisfy themselves. Do these republicans even know why they are fighting anymore? They accuse these democrats of bowing to liberal interest groups, but is it really any better for these republicans and conservatives to simply bow to the republican leadership without ever questioning it or asking themselves if there could possibly be a better way? These people make me sick. It says "more perfect union" in the Declaration of Independence, and sometimes i wish these people would stop trying to destroy people and do what is best for the nation. The end does not justify the means here, and someone needs to say it. It's odd, but for some reason it looks like the only man in the senate that no-one can say anything negative about is Barack Obama. I almost wish he would run for president, just to give us someone who is for real.

Posted by: Jake | January 19, 2006 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Was it really necessary to grant Scott McClellan anonymity for this piece? Seriously, though, they needed to be anonymous to parrot an RNC talking point? That's absurd.

"A high-level Republican operative, who was granted anonymity to speak freely about the strategic goals behind the ads, said they are backed by a belief that Democrats mishandled the Alito confirmation and in doing so have created a political opening for the GOP.

'Democrats have an enormous vulnerability there,' said the operative. 'The reality of what they did -- at the beck and call of liberal interest groups -- is unacceptable to the vast majority of voters in red America.'"

Posted by: Matthew | January 19, 2006 7:23 PM | Report abuse

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