One week before Election Day, House Republicans rolled out late-campaign attack ads Tuesday tying Democrats to President Barack Obama. The unpopular chief executive embarked on a round of travel to boost gubernatorial candidates in a half-dozen states.
The television ad wars neared a crescendo in the battle for control of the Senate.
In the Louisville, Kentucky, area alone, campaign officials said target voters could expect to see an average of 97 commercials related to the contest in the final week of campaigning. The region is ground zero in the race between Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Republican hopes of capturing the Senate received a boost in Kansas, where the Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund announced support for embattled Sen. Pat Roberts in his race with independent Greg Orman — after opposing Roberts in the GOP primary.
“We’ve been counting on you, Kansas. You’re a Republican state, for goodness sakes!” exhorted Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, lending his tea party star power to the incumbent.
Republicans must pick up six seats to gain a Senate majority. They appear certain of at least three — in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota — and there are nine other competitive races, including six for seats currently in Democratic hands.
Not even Democrats claim they have a chance to win control of the House midway through Obama’s second term, and Republicans are angling for gains in parts of the country where the president ran well in 2012.
The party’s congressional committee unveiled ads in 11 races , and gave the president a featured role in most.
“Under Barack Obama, West Virginia has lost 5,000 coal jobs,” says one, targeting Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall.
“Send Obama a message. Defeat Ann Kirkpatrick,” says a second, airing in Arizona.
Still another, aimed at shoring up Republican Rep. Steve Southerland in Florida, says, “Obamacare is hurting seniors and the only thing that matters about Gwen Graham is that she’s supporting Obama’s disastrous agenda.”
Obama’s political itinerary through Election Day was strong evidence of the dilemma facing Democrats.
The president has traveled sparingly this fall, buffeted by poor approval ratings and a need to manage fears that an Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa could find its way to American shores.
He hasn’t appeared publicly in weeks with a Democrat in a competitive Senate race. In addition, the media have often been barred from his fundraisers, a step that prohibits photographers from taking pictures of Obama alongside the candidates he is trying to help.
Obama’s travel plans for the next few days run to Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. He won all six in 2012, and all host gubernatorial races this fall.
His first stop, in Milwaukee, was arguably the most politically significant. Republican Gov. Scott Walker faces a challenge from Mary Burke in a close race.
In a difficult political season, Democrats have said they had hopes of picking off a handful of Republican-held House seats. But they are on defense in far more than that.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it was advertising on television for a total of 27 seats in the campaign’s final week, 22 they currently control and only five held by Republicans.
“She’d privatize Medicare and Social Security, too. … That’s change we can’t afford,” says one, aimed at Martha McSally, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Ron Barber in Arizona.
The DCCC said Mariannette Miller-Meeks, running against Rep. Dave Loebsack in Iowa, “partnered with a company that outsourced hundreds of jobs overseas to India.” The ad says Republican Miller-Meeks is “putting her own job ahead of Iowans.”
Taking aim at Rod Blum, running for an open seat in Iowa, Democrats said in an ad that he “actually wrote articles in support of privatizing Social Security on Wall Street. He said seniors are getting larger Social Security checks than warranted.”
The television ads were non-stop in Kentucky, where the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee returned to the airwaves after an absence of three weeks in a race that is tilting McConnell’s way.
“After 30 years, it just feels like Mitch is making his job work for him — and not us,” former teacher Estelle Bayer says in the ad. McConnell, she says, “voted himself six pay raises, and became a millionaire.”
McConnell, who has aired his share of grim-faced attack ads in pursuit of a sixth term, lightened up in a new one.
It spoofs campaign consultants shown trying to place him in memorable settings that have been used in other ads — standing astride two trucks or near a baby, or with a bloodhound. Finally, the narrator says, “Maybe it’s enough for to say, “Mitch fights for Kentucky.”