Anti-Hagel group targets vulnerable Senate Democrats

January 22, 2013

A group opposing former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as defense secretary is trying to weaken his chances with a new ad campaign that targets some of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection next year.

“We live in a dangerous world,” says the announcer of the Americans for a Strong Defense ad, before listing threats presented by North Korea, Iran and Russia. “Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense wants America to back down. An end to our nuclear program,” he continues, before encouraging viewers to press their senators to vote against Hagel.

The ad campaign targets Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Mark Udall (Co.), all of whom are set to face voters in 2014. The Udall spot also encourages viewers to call fellow Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who chairs Senate Democrats’ campaign arm.

When asked about the size of the ad buy, group spokesman Ryan Williams declined to provide a dollar figure. A Democratic strategist tracking the buy said that $271,000 is behind it. That's a modest sum, considering the ad covers five states.

Hagel’s faced some stiff GOP criticism over his past statements on Iran, Israel and the Iraq war. But he nonetheless appears to have a path to confirmation. A major reason why: Hagel picked up some crucial support last week, when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat and a well-known supporter of Israel, came out in favor of his confirmation.

Updated at 1:10 p.m. 

Sean Sullivan covers national politics for “The Fix.”
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