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McCaskill is early target of conservative ad campaign

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., criticized President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday for his criticism of U.S. intelligence experts.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

Less than two months after president-elect Donald Trump  won in November, some of his allied groups are zeroing on U.S. Senate Democrats like Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

She’s among 10 Democrats in the Senate  who represent so-called “red states” where Trump won big – and who will be on the 2018 ballot.

A new TV adis airing on cable stations in the St. Louis and Kansas City markets this week that seeks to pressure McCaskill to support Trump’s agenda, notably his calls for tax cuts and his promise to repeal the health-insurance program known as Obamacare.

The 30-second spot says:

“A new President.  A new chance for change.  With a plan that will unleash economic growth. And an expert team dedicated to a pro-jobs, tax reform agenda to benefit all Americans. Better ‘America-First’ trade deals.  Modernizing infrastructure investments.  A return to fiscal responsibility.  And replacing ObamaCare.….Call senator McCaskill and tell her to support the Trump economic team.”

The ad also features photos of Trump’s nominees for key posts, such as  Elaine Chao for transportation secretary (she’s the wife of Senate President Mitch McConnell) and U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., for the Department of Health and Human Services. (McCaskill already has been critical of Price's proposals, notably his support for privatizing Medicare.)

The ad was produced by an outside group called the Right Way Initiative, which says it’s spending $100,000 in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas to air the ad, along with mailers and a web site.

The group is spending as much, or more, on similar ad campaigns in four other states: Pennsylvania, Indiana, Montana and West Virginia. All four also have Democratic senators who’ll be on the 2018 ballot.

A spokesman confirmed that the aim is to highlight any potential differences those senators have with Trump’s agenda.

Republicans also are hoping to knock off at least some of those senators in 2018.  Right now, the GOP/Democratic split in the Senate is 52-48.

The Right Way Initiative is a 501C4, meaning that it does not have to disclose its donors.

In a statement, McCaskill called the effort – and the ad -- "a ridiculous waste of money."

"I'm going to do my constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on these nominees," she added. "And Missourians have had enough of political ads."

But all sides agree the ad is likely a signal of a barrage of anti-McCaskill spots, as well as supportive ones, that Missouri TV viewers are expected to see over the next two years.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.