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NRSC Ready to Go On Air Against Byrd

Target ‘Changes’ in Voting Record

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is set to launch its first television ads of the cycle, targeting Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and charging that the longest-serving Senate Democrat has grown out of touch with voters back home.

Republican strategists would not reveal the total cost and scope of the ads, but said that the NRSC is spending in the range of tens of thousands of dollars on its first television buy of the cycle. The initial buy, which will be concentrated in the large media markets in the state, may be expanded later.

NRSC spokesman Brian Nick described the spot as “a bio ad” that highlights what they consider to be Byrd’s political evolution over the course of his Senate tenure. The ad has already been cut and it is expected to begin running at the end of this week.

“It focuses on his Senate voting record and some changes over time in that voting record, and whether those changes are consistent with the values of West Virginia,” Nick said.

Byrd, 87, has not yet announced whether he’ll run again but is expected to seek an eighth term in 2006.

Democrats have said they remain confident in Byrd’s re-election prospects, especially given his current lack of a top-tier opponent.

Republicans are hopeful that Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) will decide to challenge Byrd, who has never faced a competitive race for re-election.

Capito, a three-term lawmaker and the daughter of former West Virginia Gov. Arch Moore (R), is considering running and has said she will make a decision about the race in the coming months.

Byrd led Capito 46 percent to 43 percent in a poll conducted for the Charleston Daily Mail in May, a difference within the poll’s 5 percent margin of error.

The poll also showed Byrd had a 62 percent favorable/33 percent unfavorable rating while Capito had a 57 percent favorable/19 percent unfavorable rating.

A Democratic poll taken in April, however, showed Byrd leading Capito 51 percent to 41 percent.

Byrd’s campaign fundraising got a jump start earlier this year with the help of a fundraising e-mail signed by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and distributed nationally by the liberal organization

As of June 30, Byrd had more than $1.7 million in available cash on hand. Capito showed $382,000 in her campaign account.

Byrd, a one-time Appropriations chairman and former Senate Majority Leader, has long been considered an unbeatable institution in West Virginia.

The last time he faced voters, in 2000, he defeated a little-known Republican 78 percent to 20 percent, carrying all 55 of the state’s counties for the third time.

Since then, Byrd has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration and the Iraq war, issues that Republicans intend to use as fodder against him in 2006.

He also recently published an autobiography, “Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields,” which touches on his past history with the Ku Klux Klan and in which he blames “liberal judges” and “activist judges” for many of the nation’s problems.

“One’s life is probably in no greater danger in the jungles of deepest Africa than in the jungles of America’s large cities,” Byrd wrote in his memoir. “In my judgment, much of the problem has been brought about by the mollycoddling of criminals by some of the liberal judges who have been placed on the nation’s courts in recent years.”

First elected in 1958, Byrd has served longer than any Senator in history other than the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). If he is re-elected in 2006, he will surpass Thurmond’s service record in February 2007.

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