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McConnell Launches TV Ad Buy

On the same day that one of his top potential challengers took her name out of consideration for next year’s Senate race, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday went up with two new television ads touting his legislative accomplishments on behalf of the Bluegrass State.

In announcing that she wouldn’t challenge McConnell next year, state Auditor Crit Luallen (D) said she was focused on serving Kentucky after being re-elected to her state office in November.

Luallen, however, did note that “the polls show that Mitch McConnell is certainly vulnerable and Kentuckians are ready for a change. I am confident that Democrats will field a strong candidate next year.”

Luallen is a popular figure in Kentucky, though McConnell allies have insisted that she is too liberal to be competitive in a race for federal office.

Several prominent Kentucky Democrats had said they would defer to Luallen in the 2008 contest, and now that she’s officially out the Democratic field could get crowded.

Outgoing Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo (D) already has formed an exploratory committee for the race, though he told the Lexington Herald-Leader last week that he also was considering running for a state legislative seat. Louisville businessman Greg Fisher and retired Lt. Col. Andrew Horne, who ran unsuccessfully in the 3rd Congressional district last year, are two names that also have been mentioned as possible Democratic contenders. Democratic operatives also have floated the name of businessman Bruce Lunsford, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year.

This summer and fall, national Democrats and liberal interest groups spent tens of thousands of dollars waging a vigorous anti- McConnell TV campaign hoping to weaken the Minority Leader even before any challenger formally entered the race. State Democrats had promised that once the state elections concluded in November, they would set their sights on knocking off McConnell, who has long been the face of Kentucky’s Republican Party.

McConnell’s two ads that went up last week focus on the Senator’s efforts to secure hundreds of millions of dollars for medical research and his work to secure tobacco buyouts for farmers in the state.

A McConnell campaign spokesman said that the initial ad buys totaled approximately $30,000 in both the Louisville and Lexington markets for an initial one-week run. Through Sept. 30, McConnell had $6.8 million in the bank, more than any incumbent Senator up for re-election in 2008.