WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican National Committee began running ads in 40 media markets Tuesday mostly targeting incumbent senators who supported President Barack Obama's health care program. Billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, gave $2.5 million to help Democrats defend their majority in the Senate.
The early action suggests Republicans see the president's signature domestic achievement as their way to keep control of the House and perhaps win the Senate. With more than 300 days remaining before Election Day, both sides are looking to set the agenda before voters start paying attention.
"Obamacare is going to be the issue in 2014," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told reporters, signaling the central committee's main message heading into this election year.
Specifically, the RNC ads in 12 states remind voters that Obama and his allies promised Americans that if they liked their insurance, they could keep it. That promise proved inaccurate as millions of Americans were told their policies didn't meet the national health law's minimum standards and were instructed to buy new — and better but often more expensive — health plans.
But there was little cash behind the ads, which are set to run for just two days. For instance, the RNC is spending $85 to air the ad in Grand Rapids, Mich., and another $110 for a station in Detroit.
Priebus said serious ad spending would come later in the year.
The radio ads will target Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Udall of Colorado, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Mark Warner of Virginia. Reps. Bruce Braley of Iowa, Gary Peters of Michigan, Tim Bishop of New York and Nick Rahall of West Virginia also are facing the messages.
"The law stinks, and it's a disaster," Priebus said of the health care law. "It's not possible for this not to be the No. 1 issue in the 2014 elections."
Democrats dismissed the size of the advertising buy as paltry and the message as off-base.