Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has survived five Senate races, but a pair of new television ads from two of his opponents show how his bid for re-election in 2014 will be unlike any of his previous campaigns.
The dueling campaign ads - from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, and Republican businessman Matt Bevin - underscore the challenge facing Republican McConnell.
Grimes and Bevin released ads today excoriating McConnell on his Senate record. Bevin's ad focused on McConnell's working with Democrats to help end the government shutdown. In Bevin's ad, conservative radio show host Mark Levin can be heard saying of McConnell, "It's not only that he's wrong about the positions he takes, he talks like a liberal."
Grimes, 34, had a more startling ad, accusing McConnell of causing congressional gridlock and then taking credit for ending it. To make the point, the ad showed footage of a burning house. "Mitch McConnell can't light the house on fire, then claim credit for putting it out, especially while it's still burning," a voice-over says in the Grimes ad.
One former McConnell confidant, however, doesn't think the effect of the ads will be as significant as people might think. Hunter Bates, who served as chief counsel and then chief of staff to McConnell from 1997 to 2002, believes both Bevin and Grimes have employed campaign tactics counterproductive enough to help give McConnell, 71, a sixth victory.
"Whenever the Washington Post is calling McConnell one of the greatest legislative deal-makers of his generation and Democrats are singing his praises for being the adult in the room, you know it's been a tough few weeks for Grimes," Bates told ABC News of the Democrat. "I think that's what her fire and brimstone ad is really all about: a frustrated candidate who has now lost the one message she hoped to ride all the way to Washington."
In addition, Bates also questions the effectiveness of Bevin's campaign ads. "The great irony of the Bevin campaign is that his ads attacking McConnell for being a bipartisan deal-maker actually hurt Grimes more than McConnell," Bates said. "The Bevin attack ads highlight McConnell's leadership in Washington and undercut Grimes' message that McConnell can't get things done for Kentucky and the nation."
Allison Moore, a spokeswoman for McConnell's 2014 campaign, says of the Grimes ad: "Alison Lundergan Grimes wouldn't know if the house were on fire, under water, or if it even exists unless Barack Obama's Washington allies told her. There should be an award to the first person who can explain Alison's position on any major issue facing Kentuckians today."
Moore has not responded to ABC News's request for a comment on Bevin's ad.