The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is up early with ads in two of the most competitive Senate races of the 2016 cycle.
The business lobby’s political arm on Tuesday began airing a pair of ads: one slamming former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in Ohio and the other propping up Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. The 10-day ad buy in the two states, which top $1 million, cue up a multi-milllion dollar ad campaign the Chamber of Commerce plans to run in key battleground states.
Sixteen months ahead of the general election, it’s the earliest the Chamber of Commerce has ever pushed ads to voters TV screens in an effort the group’s senior political strategist Scott Reed said was aimed at keeping “a pro-growth Senate” that sprung out of Republicans taking back control in January.
“We’re now working to put some lead on the target and we’re looking to set the tone of the debate for (Sen. Rob) Portman and Toomey,” Reed said of the two Republican senators the Chamber of Commerce is playing defense for. “We need to shape the environment early.”
Strickland, a progressive Democrat who launched his campaign in February, is vying to unseat Portman, the first-term senator from Ohio. Toomey, meanwhile, is facing an uphill battle to reelection in 2016 as Democrats eye the state as a key pickup needed to retake the Senate.
The Chamber of Commerce set the tone for the bludgeon of attacks and questions Strickland is likely to face over the state of Ohio’s economy while he was governor amid the national recession. The spot points to hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, an increase in unemployment and a higher budget deficit.
“Then after crippling Ohio’s economy, Strickland moved to Washington to lead a liberal think tank, calling it his ‘dream job.’ Now Strickland wants a seat in the US senate. Does he deserve it?” the ad says, picking up on Strickland’s recent comments about his job heading up the Center for American Progress after leaving the governorship in Ohio.
The Chamber is looking to buoy Toomey, though, painting him as a “practical and constructive conservative” who has been a boon for Pennsylvania’s economy.
The ad also touts Toomey’s willingness to work across the aisle, “putting partisanship aside to do what’s right for Pennsylvania.” Toomey drew fire from conservatives in 2013 when he worked with Democratic Sen. Jim Manchin on a gun bill that would have closed loopholes and created universal background checks on gun sales, but failed to muster enough votes in the Senate.
The 30-second TV spots are also paired with 15-second ads that will run online and on social media platforms, Reed said.