Conservatives Target Hatch, Lugar, GOP Negotiators on Debt Deal

By Eliza

Jul 11, 2011 2:23pm

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf (@zbyronwolf) reports:

A new TV ad campaign from a conservative anti-tax group seeks to harden key Republican lawmakers against compromising with Democrats on a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

The ads by the Club for Growth target two key Republican senators trying to ward off primary challenges from the right and another ad, which will run nationally on cable TV.

The national ad focuses on Republicans negotiating with President Obama on how to raise the debt ceiling. It instructs them to “show some spine”.

“Tell Republicans in Congress no debt limit hike without real spending cuts and a balanced budget amendment,” says an announcer while a picture of House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are shown next to the picture of a Rhinoceros. The implication is that the three could become RINOs – a four letter for conservatives – meaning “Republican in Name Only.”

Watch it here. 

The national ad is coupled with two local ads targeting long-serving Republican senators trying to avoid primary challenges.

Orrin Hatch and Richard Lugar are Washington survivors. They’re tied as the most senior members in the Republican caucus because both assumed office in January of 1977.

But both are up for reelection next year and both, at the ages of 77 and 79, respectively, are running. And both have worked across the aisle during their long careers. Both voted for the 2008 Wall Street bailout that either did or did not prevent a worldwide market collapse, depending on who you believe.

Their long careers  and that willingness to compromise are the subjects – in a bad way – of the new TV ads. They pair pictures of Hatch and Lugar 35 years ago with pictures of them now and cites votes that fiscal conservatives find frustrating. Hatch has supported previous extensions of the debt ceiling.

Watch the ads in Indiana and Utah.

Club for Growth is the anti-tax group that helped oust several Republican incumbents during the 2010 election cycle. Sen. Arlen Specter switched parties rather than face Pat Toomey, a former Club for Growth President in the Pennsylvania Republican primary in 2008. Toomey now holds that senate seat. But the Club’s record is mixed. They backed Sharron Angle in Nevada and she failed to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even though he had been considered one of the most vulnerable lawmakers in the country at the beginning of the year.

Hatch has been careful to improve his relationship with Tea Party and fiscal groups over the past year. But Club for Growth has encouraged Rep. Jason Chaffetz to challenge the long-serving Utah Republican. Chaffetz has seemed open to a run

Hatch spokesman Antonia Ferrier, who works in his Senate office, said the ad was surprising and she pointed to his support of a Balanced Budget Amendment and his attendance at rallies with Club for Growth members.

“The bottom line is that Senator Hatch is demanding significant spending caps and cuts, and passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment before even considering voting to raise the debt limit.  With President Obama spending and taxing this country into what looks like a double dip recession, conservatives should wonder why Senator Hatch would be attacked by a group that gave him a 97 percent rating last Congress.  This ad is unfortunately misleading, but we are more than happy to set the record straight – this is what makes our democracy stronger,” she said.

If Hatch has embraced the Tea Party and staunch fiscal conservatives, Lugar has taken the opposite approach. He faces a challenge from State Treasurer Richard Mourdock

Every vote in the senate will be important for a debt ceiling deal; 60 of one hundred senators will likely have to support it to move beyond procedural hurdles.

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