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Democratic Attack Ads Hit Greedy Millionaires Theme In Red States

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Rep. Denny Rehberg is one target of the Democratic Party's greedy-millionaires ad campaign.
Rep. Denny Rehberg is one target of the Democratic Party's greedy-millionaires ad campaign.

WASHINGTON -- Hundreds and even thousands of miles from Wall Street, Democratic candidates in a string of red states have embraced the Occupy message of the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent and are running ads hammering greedy millionaires.

The latest popped up Tuesday in Montana, targeting Rep. Denny Rehberg (R), the 62nd wealthiest member of Congress, who is challenging Sen. Jon Tester (D).

The spot, run by the state Democratic Party, declares over the typical attack-ad grainy footage, "After 12 years in Washington, D.C., Dennis Rehberg has forgotten where he comes from. Because Rehberg voted to protect special tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, even while multimillionaires like Rehberg already pay a lower tax rate than the rest of us here in Montana."

The ad is referring to various Rehberg votes, including his opposition to the popular Buffett Rule, which would raise taxes on millionaires, and his support for various GOP budget cuts. A similar ad launched two weeks ago hits Rehberg for protecting "big bankers on Wall Street."

In North Dakota, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has been running an ad against Rep. Rick Berg, the GOP's Senate candidate, that links the anti-millionaire message to Medicare cuts. The charge that Republicans want to gut Medicare is the Democrats' top attack point this year.

"He voted to give billions in tax breaks to millionaires, while essentially ending Medicare for the rest of us," the narrator says, again referring to votes for GOP budget proposals that, among other things, would create a voucher-like system for Medicare.

It's similar in Missouri. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) has faced an onslaught of ads backed by super PACs and outside groups funded by wealthy donors, a fact that Democrats are trying to turn to their advantage.

"They're not from around here. Spending millions to attack and attack," says an ad that ran earlier this year. "They want to end Medicare as we know it; Claire fights to protect it. They want more tax breaks for multimillionaires and oil companies; Claire cuts taxes for the middle class."

In Nebraska, the state Democratic Party put up a spot on Monday hitting millionaires, special interests and state lawmaker Deb Fischer, the Republicans' Senate candidate.

"Fischer believes millionaires should get special tax breaks," says the ad, before accusing Fischer of "hobnobbing" at Washington fundraisers with "special interests" who want to preserve those financial breaks. The spot was based on Fischer's signing the controversial pledge to raise no taxes pushed by activist Grover Norquist.

One outside analyst sees what Democrats hope to do with these attacks, but isn't sure whether the anti-millionaire chorus will succeed.

"It's an attempt to try and seize some of the populist fervor we've seen for the last four years and turn it to Democrats' advantage," said Peverill Squire, a University of Missouri political scientist. "Taxing millionaires polls pretty well," he said.

But Squire noted that TV screens in the Show Me State have been dominated by ads from GOP-linked groups thus far. He sees the Democrats' bid for the anti-millionaire vote as an effort to cut though the incessant din and perhaps bring in votes from those who responded to the Occupy movement and from independents who might have gravitated toward the Tea Party.

"They're trying to figure out where those two movements meet," Squire said.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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