Republican senators targeted by pro-stimulus campaign

Does a new offensive by liberal groups mean that a tough 2010 for Senate Republicans will follow the catastrophes of 2006 and 2008?

By Gabriel Winant

Published February 3, 2009 12:25AM (EST)

Bad times can’t go on forever, right? Having taken their lumps and lost 13 (or, more likely, 14) seats in just two election cycles, Republican senators must have thought their fortunes were set to change. But some people just won't let them get comfortable.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports that a collection of liberal interest groups (Americans United for Change, and labor union AFSCME) has been airing ads pressuring Republican senators to back President Obama’s stimulus package. The first batch of television ads, announced last week, targeted Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, Iowa's Charles Grassley and New Hampshire's Judd Gregg who might not be long for the Senate anyway. Radio spots, meanwhile, were aimed at Sens. John Ensign of Nevada, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Ohio's George Voinovich.

Monday, the groups dropped another bunch of spots, targeting Sens. Kit Bond of Missouri and Dick Lugar of Indiana on TV, and Kentucky's Jim Bunning, North Carolina's Richard Burr and Florida's Mel Martinez on the radio. As Americans United for Change points out, they are now aiming at a full third of the shrunken Republican caucus.

Advocacy groups like the ones behind these spots tend to follow the smell of blood, figuring that politicians who feel vulnerable will be more likely to respond to pressure. This seems to be no different, and the list itself paints a picture of a Republican Party that faces an uphill fight. Bond, Martinez and Voinovich are retiring, and Republican leaders would love for Bunning -- the rare incumbent more vulnerable than a fresh candidate -- to join them. A couple of others who won relatively easily in 2004, like Specter and Burr, will likely face stiff competition in 2010.

Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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