Updated: 1:24 p.m.
The conservative Club for Growth issued a warning shot Monday in the home states of Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.).
The deep-pocketed group bought air time for advertisements criticizing the records of the Senators — both of whom are vulnerable in their respective GOP primaries next year. The spot intends to serve as a warning to Hatch and Lugar not to vote to raise the debt ceiling without a strong spending reduction package, including spending caps and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
“Thirty-five years. That’s how long Richard Lugar has been in Washington,” an announcer says in the ad. “What’s he done about our debt? Lugar voted for the Wall Street bailout, the car company bailouts, the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout. Back in the 1970s, he even voted to bail out New York City. Now, with $14 trillion in debt, Lugar will soon vote on raising our debt limit even higher. After 35 long years, tell Richard Lugar: no more debt.”
The spots will run statewide indefinitely in Indiana and Utah starting Tuesday, according to a source with close knowledge of the buy.
Lugar and Hatch — the two most senior Republicans in the Senate — will likely have tough primary challenges next year. State Treasurer Richard Mourdock has announced he will challenge Lugar, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz indicated he will soon jump into the race against Hatch. The Utah contest would likely be decided at a statewide convention of party activists.
The club already expressed interest in supporting Chaffetz last month, when its president, former Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.), declared, “Run, Jason, Run” in a press release. The club also has met with Mourdock.
Hatch's office responded by calling the advertisement "unfortunately misleading," saying the Utah Republican is on the same page with the club's support for large spending cuts and a balanced budget amendment before raising the debt ceiling.
"This ad is surprising since Sen.Hatch has signed the Cut, Cap, Balance Pledge, which is Club for Growth's signature debt limit priority. In fact just last Friday, Sen. Hatch attended a big rally for Cut Cap Balance — headlined by Club for Growth Board Member Ken Blackwell — in Utah," said Hatch spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier. "The bottom line is that Sen. Hatch is demanding significant spending caps and cuts, and passage of a balanced budget amendment before even considering voting to raise the debt limit."