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Byrd Hits Back at NRSC Ads

Although he has yet to formally announce that he will seek a ninth term next year, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) began airing his first campaign television ads of the cycle Tuesday in response to the “false, misleading and deceptive” advertising that Republicans launched against him last week.

“These slick, out-of-state ads rely on falsehood and trickery. They do not tell the truth. These ads, coming so far in advance of the election and playing fast-and-loose with the facts, are some of the worst kind of campaign tricks,” Byrd said in a statement announcing his response ad buy. “I will not sit quietly and let these national Republican ads lie to the people of my state. False, misleading, and deceptive ads will not go unanswered.”

Byrd’s new ad, titled “Truth,” is airing principally in the Huntington and Charleston media markets and is of relatively the same scope as the National Republican Senatorial Committee ad buy hitting Byrd that began running Friday.

Ned Rose, chairman of Byrd’s re-election committee, would not put a specific time line on how long the ads will remain on the air.

“It’s going to run long enough for Sen. Byrd to be able to tell the truth about the ads that were put on by the Senate Republican committee,” Rose said.

While Byrd has yet to draw a top-tier challenger, Republicans are aggressively working to woo Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) into the race against the 87-year-old Senator, who has not faced a competitive re-election contest in two decades.

Byrd’s new 30-second spot opens with ominous music and an announcer telling viewers that “out-of-state special interests are running false attack ads against our Senator, Robert Byrd.”

Those same special interests, the announcer says, want to “privatize Social Security” and give “tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas.”

The ad also features Army National Guard Sgt. Jared Towner, a West Virginia native and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Towner tells viewers that Byrd “has been fighting for us, bringing jobs to West Virginia, funding schools and hospitals, protecting our flag and supporting our troops.”

Byrd appears with a group of veterans at the close of the ad and issues this disclaimer: “I approved this ad because the people of West Virginia deserve the truth.”

The NRSC went up on West Virginia airwaves last week with a 30-second spot attacking Byrd for being out of step with the state’s voters and values. It claims that much has changed with regard to Byrd’s voting record since he was first elected to Congress in 1952.

“Byrd voted for soldiers in the ’50s. Today, against body armor in the war on terror. Then, he stood with working families. Today he votes higher taxes for the middle class,” the announcer says in the NRSC ad. “Then, Byrd protected our flag. Now he votes to allow flag burning. Sen. Byrd. We all agree he’s changed. But is it good for West Virginia?”

Byrd’s campaign has wasted little time in using the Republican ads as a fundraising tool.

He currently has Web ads running on at least two prominent Democratic blogs, Daily Kos and MyDD, asking supporters to help him raise $55,000 to fight back against the GOP attacks.

As of June 30, Byrd had more than $1.7 million in cash on hand.

A handful of Republicans have already announced their intentions to run for the GOP Senate nomination next year: Rick Snuffer, Hiram Lewis and Zane Lawhorn.