The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee started its 2014 campaign season with an attack on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this week, launching a March Madness-themed ad campaign pinning him as a Washington insider, Roll Call reported Thursday.
The ad, which simulates a tightly contested basketball game, accuses McConnell of "playing for the Washington special interests" against Kentucky, which is "trying to move up" but is "blocked by McConnell."
The 60-second radio ad, which will air locally from March 28 to April 3, is the DSCC's first ad campaign of the 2014 cycle. The DSCC has not disclosed the exact size of the ad buy, but told Roll Call that it cost "five figures or more." The ad's theme takes advantage of the basketball tournament's timing, as Louisville faces off against the Oregon Ducks on Friday night.
The McConnell camp for its part also launches a five-figure radio ad buy Thursday, using sound bites from his Conservative Political Action Conference speech, including the line, "as conservatives, we should never be on defense about our principles or our priorities."
The ad buys come just a day after actress and activist Ashley Judd announced that she will not challenge McConnell in 2014. However, Democrats may already have their top candidate lined up, as reports indicate that Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has consulted with the DSCC and plans to file for an exploratory committee as early as next week.
A December 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found McConnell, who has served in the Senate since 1985, to be the most unpopular senator in the country, with only a 37 percent approval rating, compared to a 55 percent disapproval. However, the same poll found McConnell leading all potential Democratic candidates that the polling organization tested, including Judd and Grimes, as well as Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson and Attorney General Jack Conway.
Still, the DSCC is looking to leverage McConnell's low approval rating for a potential Democratic pick-up.
"Mitch McConnell is the walking, talking embodiment of everything that's wrong with Washington D.C.," said DSCC executive director Guy Cecil in a statement Thursday. "No wonder Mitch McConnell is the nation's least popular Senator. Kentuckians deserve a leader who fights for them, not the Washington special interests."
This week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) signaled support for McConnell's reelection, which could weaken any tea party challenge to Kentucky's longest-serving U.S. senator.