By DAVID A. LIEB
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is casting herself as a combatant against special interests in the first TV ads of her re-election campaign.
The Democratic senator said she was beginning to air advertisements Thursday in response to critical commercials against her by the Republican Party, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a conservative political action group.
McCaskill's campaign said groups have spent $3.8 million on ads against her, but McCaskill did not disclose how much she was spending on ads.
The TV advertisement by McCaskill opens with black-and-white images of some of the ads against her, many of which have linked her to President Barack Obama's policies, such as the new federal health care law. Her ad accuses "special interests" opposing her of wanting to end Medicare and expand tax breaks for multi-millionaires and oil companies, and of supporting unfair trade deals with China. It declares that McCaskill fights to protect Medicare, cut taxes for the middle class and make products in Missouri.
McCaskill is seeking her second, six-year term in the Senate. At least three Republicans are competing to challenge her - U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, of suburban St. Louis, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman of Rolla, and St. Louis businessman John Brunner. The day after announcing his candidacy last October, Brunner began airing TV ads - financed with his own money - showing images of McCaskill with Obama and denouncing Washington's spending and debt.
Missouri's Senate race has gotten off to an earlier advertising start than when McCaskill ran six years ago, perhaps because neither party had a competitive primary last time. In 2006, Republican Sen. Jim Talent was the first to air TV ads, and those did not begin until July 20. McCaskill defeated Talent by a margin of fewer than 50,000 votes out of more than 2.1 million cast.
This year's party primaries will be Aug. 7. McCaskill has no announced opposition within the Democratic Party.