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American Crossroads Trains Focus on Flipping Senate in 2012

The Republican super PAC American Crossroads today is launching a new messaging campaign targeting 2012 Senate races and the Democrats’ tenuous hold on the chamber.

The nonprofit is urging Congressional Republicans and two dozen conservative groups to seize the opportunity to retake the Senate by focusing its rhetorical attacks on what it deems the Democrats’ “feckless, sclerotic, politicized” management of the chamber compared to the “well-managed” GOP House.
American Crossroads outlined its strategy in a memo from President and CEO Steven Law, who told Roll Call that paid media and other political activity could follow if this messaging proves successful.
“We’re encouraging other groups commenting on these things to invest some of their earned media,” Law said in an interview. “We’ll be doing some further research and over time evaluating opportunities to put pressure on certain [Democratic] Members through paid and earned media. As a practice, we don’t do token buys.”

Republicans need a net gain of four seats to win control of the Senate in the next Congress. American Crossroads and its affiliated nonprofit 501(c)(4), Crossroads GPS, raised more than $71 million in the 2010 cycle, most of which was invested in advertising to influence Senate races. Law previously worked for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), including six years as his chief of staff and as his executive director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Law credited American Crossroads’ new messaging strategy to President Barack Obama and his attacks on Congress. Although the president has focused in particular on Congressional Republicans, Law said American Crossroads thinks there’s a case to make for how the House has been run under GOP leadership versus the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Despite the universally poor job approval ratings that Congress — and Republicans in Congress — has received in most recent polls, Law said a message targeting Senate Democrats could pay dividends in key races that could determine control of the chamber. Two-thirds of the seats up next year are currently held by Democrats, including several in competitive states.

“Republicans in Congress have a rare opportunity to turn the president’s rhetoric against his own party,” Law wrote in his memo. “The president’s anti-Congress message runs directly into the buzz-saw of emerging American opinion on the relative effectiveness of the two parties.”

The memo outlines a strategy of comparing the “pro-jobs” legislative output of the House as compared to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) “legislative graveyard” that is a part of every GOP Member’s standard talking points.

Additionally, American Crossroads recommends that House and Senate Republicans regularly attempt to push bills that Senate Democrats oppose, with a particular focus on those Senate Democrats who could be vulnerable in 2012 and serve on relevant committees, such as Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.), who serve on the Commerce Committee.

Democrats don’t appear concerned. They argue that the Republicans’ excessive use of the filibuster is responsible for gridlock in the Senate, saying the GOP’s employment of the tactic provides them with an excellent case to make to the voters in 2012. Democrats also think that the legislative agenda pushed by House Republicans bolsters their assertion that the GOP is too extreme to be trusted to run both chambers.

“Democrats would relish the opportunity to compare our ideas on the economy and jobs to the extreme tea party agenda that has come out of the House,” said Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “They have yet to pass a jobs bill in the Republican House. Week after week, the Democratic Senate has tried to move forward.”

Added Canter, regarding the American Crossroads strategy: “If that’s what they think, that’s terrific news for Democrats.”

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