ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
An upstart organization run by several former Romney campaign staffers is hitting the airwaves in five states with a volley of television ads aimed at squashing the nomination of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense.
Sponsored by the new group, Americans for a Strong Defense, the ads will run on broadcast and cable television in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana and North Carolina. They are specifically tailored to pressure senators from those states to vote “no” on Hagel’s nomination.
The commercials note the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea and the threat posed by Russia. Then a narrator says: “Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense wants America to back down. An end to our nuclear program. Devastating defense cuts. A weaker country.” It urges viewers to call their senators and tell them “to say ‘no’ to Chuck Hagel — before it’s too late.”
A spokesman for Americans for a Strong Defense declined to offer specifics on how much the group is spending on the effort, but described it as a “significant buy.”
The senators mentioned in the ads are all Democrats: Michael Bennet and Mark Udall of Colorado, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
The group’s board members include former Romney campaign aides Danny Diaz and Brian Hook and Mauricio Claver-Carone, the executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates. Former Romney spokesman Ryan Williams is handling communications.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to begin confirmation hearings on Hagel, who President Obama nominated to replace Leon Panetta, on Jan. 31.
Americans for a Strong Defense is not alone.
Last week another conservative outside group, the American Future Fund, released a television ad aimed at Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
“How badly does Chuck Schumer want to be the Senate Majority Leader? And what did President Obama promise him?” the ad’s narrator asks. “After a career supporting Israel, Schumer now backs Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary. The same Chuck Hagel who supported direct negotiations with Iran after Iran’s President threatened to wipe Israel off the map. The same Chuck Hagel who complained about ‘the Jewish lobby.’”
Schumer initially expressed reservation about Hagel, but last week said a one-on-one meeting with his former Senate colleague had allayed his concerns.
The American Future Fund ad has been running on New York cable.
Still another group, the Emergency Committee for Israel, led by conservative thought-leader Bill Kristol and former Reagan administration official, Gary Bauer, has also run cable ads against Hagel.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a right-leaning advocacy group for gays and lesbians, has run newspaper ads criticizing Hagel’s record on gay rights.