U.S. Chamber of Commerce to run Republican-friendly congressional ads

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 | 7:33 p.m. CDT

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching ads in Florida, Missouri, Hawaii and Ohio as Democrats struggle to hold Senate seats and their slim majority. The Republican-friendly lobbying group is also targeting 17 House races from New York to Minnesota.

The ads, hitting Democratic incumbents over votes for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and backing his energy policies, will begin airing Wednesday and Thursday and run for 10 days to two weeks, part of a multimillion-dollar buy six months before the election. The ads in House races will focus on contests in New York, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Florida and Georgia.

The entry into markets in Democratic-leaning New York, Rhode Island and Hawaii represents a significant commitment from the GOP-allied chamber as Republicans try to capture control of the Senate and hold onto their majority in the House.

"We're going to play in every corner of this country," Rob Engstrom, the national political director for the chamber, said Tuesday.

The chamber declined to say how much it will spend in this round of advertising. Ad buys earlier this year in eight Senate races and 12 House races was estimated at $10 million.

In Missouri, first-term Sen. Claire McCaskill is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats. The chamber, which ran ads against her earlier this year, has bought time for a spot that criticizes her votes for health care and ends with the tagline, "Claire McCaskill: More government, more Washington, less opportunity, less growth."

McCaskill has criticized the outside groups that have filled the airwaves in her state and around the country after the Supreme Court's decision in the 2010 Citizens United case, which erased many campaign-finance regulations.

In Florida, two-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has raised more than $9 million while his Republican foes, Rep. Connie Mack and former Sen. George LeMieux, have struggled in attracting significant donations for a state with 10 major media markets, including expensive Miami. The chamber ad complains about Nelson's health care vote.

"Obamacare will be a nightmare for seniors," the ad says. "Did Bill Nelson consider the consequences when he cast the deciding vote for Obamacare? ... Call Bill Nelson and tell him to support the repeal of Obamacare."

A Quinnipiac poll last week found that by a 51-38 percent margin, Florida voters want the Supreme Court to overturn the health care law.

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