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DSCC Attacks Snowe, So NRSC Hits Murray?

The National Republican Senatorial Committee went on the attack last week to defend Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) from Democratic charges that she was ignoring the needs of veterans.

But in doing so, the group trained its guns on Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who easily won re-election last year.

The five-page news release features a picture of Murray and accuses her of acting improperly when she led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the 2002 cycle.

“We thought it was pretty odd but if that’s what they want to focus their energy on, someone who’s not up for re-election … more power to them,” Murray spokeswoman Alex Glass said. “I cannot even guess why they decided to put out that release.”

Brian Nick, spokesman for the NRSC, said the committee is well aware that Murray was just re-elected.

“We’re not trying to waste our time targeting Murray six years in advance,” he said.

So why did the NRSC decide to take on Murray in defense of Snowe?

Late last week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ripped Snowe for voting against an amendment that would have authorized $2 billion in emergency funding for veterans, including $40 million for the Togus Veterans’ Administration Medical Center in Maine.

Democrats are hoping to give Snowe a tough race next year, but her moderate image seems to suit Maine voters well. The DSCC is trying to recruit Rep. Tom Allen (D) or state Attorney General Steven Rowe into the race against Snowe.

As for Murray — she authored the amendment Snowe voted against.

“They just decided to pick up on the fact that it was her amendment,” Glass said.

Nick said the Republicans took aim at Murray with good reason: She decided to politicize the issue, he said, by mentioning the Maine veterans’ facility on the Senate floor.

“First of all, it refuted the charge that the DSCC was making, that Snowe was not supportive of [veterans’] funding, which is patently false,” Nick said. “Secondly, it raises the issue of the appropriateness” of bringing politics onto the Senate floor, he said.

Murray “singled out Sen. Snowe because she’s in cycle. We were just saying ‘let’s cut down the politics’ going on,” Nick added.

Nick was referring to Murray’s floor remarks in support of her amendment in which she specifically mentioned the Togus facility.

The DSCC had a more cynical view of the NRSC’s attack on Murray.

“I think they were trying to throw in the kitchen sink because Sen. Snowe got caught with her hand in the cookie jar,” said DSCC spokesman Phil Singer. “I think they had a ton of research on” Murray and decided to recycle it, Singer said.

Nick said the release was part of a strategy to fight back against what he characterized as Democratic attempts to score political points through the budget process.

He was referring to DSCC news releases criticizing Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who is expected to have a tough race next year, for his recent votes on Amtrak funding.

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