Political Eye: Nevadans get ready for onslaught of campaign ads

The spigot opened last week and more than $1 million in political ads from four big-moneyed groups began spilling onto the Nevada TV airwaves.

And there'll be millions of dollars more through the November elections.

Democratic- and Republican-aligned interests are fiercely fighting to win Nevada, one of at least half a dozen battlegrounds that will decide who wins the White House, Senate and House in 2012.

Priorities USA Action teamed with the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund on a 30-second TV ad in Nevada and Colorado to slam Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

"He's the $200 million man," said the ad. "And big oil's fingerprints are all over him."

The $200 million figure comes from reports that billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, who support GOP causes, plan to contribute that much money to defeat President Barack Obama.

There's no direct Koch link to big oil companies, which are a favorite Democratic Party target this election year as energy firms score profits while gasoline prices rise to $4 a gallon or more. (Of course Republicans blame Obama, accusing him of inhibiting oil exploration in the United States.)

But the Koch brothers have donated big bucks to energy interests, and their corporation also has interests in everything from pipelines and oil refining to lumber, coal and pollution control.

The ad is running in Nevada and Colorado - two crucial states Obama needs to win a second time to win a second term - at a cost of $1 million, according to Priorities USA

"This is not a show buy," said Paul Begala, a senior adviser to Priorities USA who worked on former President Bill Clinton's campaigns. "You'll see this ad and the next and the next."

Begala called Nevada and Colorado "critical states" in the White House contest.

Here's the link to the anti-Romney ad: http://bit.ly/K7qsfO

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While Priorities USA is attacking Romney, Republican groups are going after Obama.

The American Future Fund is spending $2 million to air a 60-second TV ad slamming the president in eight battleground states: Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia.

This spot hits close to home: It criticizes Obama for wasting taxpayer dollars, including more than $800,000 that the General Services Administration spent on a Henderson conference in 2010. Obama got rid of several GSA leaders over the scandal, but GOP lawmakers have opened investigations.

The ad also notes the solar energy company Solyndra went bankrupt, essentially wasting more than $535 million in Energy Department loan guarantees it got from the Obama administration.

"On Tax Day, did you ask yourself, how exactly does President Obama spend your tax dollars?" the ad narrator asks. "Billions in handouts to green energy companies like Solyndra, which went bankrupt. ... Now we learn that a federal agency spent nearly $1 million on their lavish Vegas conference complete with clowns and mind readers."

Zac Petkanas, a Democratic operative in Nevada, called the ad dishonest and misleading.

"The reality is that President Obama has cut billions of dollars in wasteful spending, proposed $4 trillion in deficit reduction and has cut taxes for every working American," Petkanas said.

Here's the link to the anti-Obama ad: http://bit.ly/Iez4RX

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Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group founded with support from the Koch brothers, went up in Nevada and seven other states with a 60-second TV ad slamming Obama for "wasteful spending."

The total ad buy is $6.1 million, including $675,000 to air it in Las Vegas and Reno. The other battleground states are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia.

The ad accuses Obama of pushing his "green energy ideology" while wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on tax credits that in some cases went to projects overseas, including China.

Adam Stryker, the Nevada state director for Americans for Prosperity, said this is the second TV ad the group has run in Nevada and the third nationwide so far this election cycle. The group plans radio spots, too. It also has hired four people to work in Southern Nevada and will hire two or three to work in Northern Nevada, as well, to do voter outreach, registration and other ground game duties.

"There are other conservative groups coming to Nevada, too," Stryker said.

Here's the link to the anti-Obama ad: http://bit.ly/IUHEq4

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Crossroads GPS, which was founded by GOP operative Karl Rove, launched TV ads focused on the U.S. Senate race in five states, including Nevada, Missouri, Virginia, Montana and North Dakota. The total ad buy is $1.2 million, including $320,000 for Nevada spots to run through May 5.

The target here is U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is expected to win the Democratic nomination to challenge the appointed incumbent, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., in the fall.

The narrator of the 30-second ad here says, "Nevada's in a hole" with the highest unemployment rate in the nation at about 12 percent as well as the worst housing crisis. The ad says Berkley has been "voting for tax hikes that would make it worse" and approving spending that's "pushed deficits sky high."

The Berkley campaign fired back, noting that Rove was former President George W. Bush's top political operative. It called the spot a "misleading attack ad meant to distract from Heller's record of supporting tax breaks for Wall Street corporations shipping American jobs overseas."

"Not surprisingly, the Karl Rove smear completely ignores Shelley Berkley's fight on behalf of Nevada's middle class to create jobs, including efforts to make Nevada the clean energy jobs capital of America, provide working families with tax relief and standing up to the big banks in order to protect families from losing their homes," the Berkley campaign said in a written statement.

Here's the link to the anti-Berkley ad: http://bit.ly/Ite3q4

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Although Rove is working hard to defeat the president in Nevada, he said last week that the Silver State now "leans Obama," according to recent polls that show the president ahead of Romney.

The assessment was part of the GOP guru's first Electoral College Map as the general election campaign gets under way with Romney heading toward wrapping up the GOP nomination.

Rove said Obama has a solid lead in 18 states for a total of 220 Electoral College votes out of the 270 necessary to win the election in November. Rove put 15 states in Romney's solid lead box for a total of 93 Electoral College votes at this point.

Rove said five states "lean Obama," - Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania - for a combined total of 64 Electoral College votes.

He said six states "lean Romney" - Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas - for a combined total of 79 Electoral College votes.

And he said six states are "toss-ups" - Iowa, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia - for a combined total of 82 Electoral College votes.

Rove cast the coming race as favoring Romney, of course. He said that all the lean Romney states in his assessment are generally safe GOP states, "while all of the 'lean-Obama' states will most likely move to the 'toss-up' or 'lean-Romney' column as the campaigns progress."

Most nonpartisan analysts say Nevada is a toss-up state, although Obama appears to have an edge. The early ad spending by outside GOP and Democratic groups suggest the battle will be close.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.