WASHINGTON — A conservative super PAC affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove has jumped back into the Indiana Senate race with a nearly $1 million ad buy highlighting Democratic nominee Joe Donnelly's support for President Barack Obama's policies.
The Indiana buy is part of more than $6.4 million worth of air time that Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads bought this week against Democrats in six competitive Senate contests, according to Federal Election Commission records. The money was also dedicated to Senate races in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada and Wisconsin.
Indiana, while appearing firmly in GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's camp, is emerging as a battleground state for control of the Senate. Groups supporting Democrats also have poured about $1.5 million into the race in the past six weeks, hoping to take away the seat held for 36 years by Republican Richard Lugar.
State Treasurer Richard Mourdock defeated Lugar in the Republican primary in May and was an early favorite to keep the seat in GOP hands.
Crossroads GPS makes the case that Donnelly, now a House member, cast critical votes in support of Obama's $833 billion economic stimulus and expansion of government-supported health insurance coverage. It's the first time the group has been on the state's airwaves in more than three months.
"So why would Donnelly vote any different if we gave him a promotion?" the ad's narrator asks.
The theme of the ad is commonplace in states where Romney is expected to win in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Donnelly has said he supports changing what Republicans derisively call "Obamacare," as well as extending Bush-era income tax cuts for all households, including those earning more than $250,000 annually. Obama says those households should pay more.
"Indiana voters are rejecting Mourdock's `my way or the highway' attitude, so a smear campaign from secret donors is the only other option," said Donnelly's campaign manager, Paul Tencher.
In Florida, American Crossroads appealed to the state's elderly population with a $1.8 million ad buy focused on changes to Medicare that were made in the health care bill. The ad claims that Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson cast the deciding vote for the bill, which it said cuts Medicare spending and puts an unelected board in charge of coverage decisions.
Republicans have not shied away from the Medicare issue in this year's House and Senate races.
Democrats are focusing their Medicare ads on a proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee, that would change the program for those under 55 from a fee-for-service program to one in which beneficiaries use a government subsidy to help buy insurance coverage. Meanwhile, Republicans are focusing criticism on the spending cuts called for in the Democratic-led health overhaul. Those cuts were directed at private insurers and hospitals.
In Virginia, the Crossroads ads highlight former Gov. Tim Kaine's comment during a debate that he could support making more people pay federal income taxes.
The group also focused on taxes in criticizing Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada and Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.