WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching ads this week in North Carolina and Georgia in a crunch-time effort to help establishment-backed Republicans in crowded Senate primaries. It is also pumping money into commercials praising GOP hopefuls in Michigan, Montana and Alaska.
The powerful business organization's ad buy is a clear attempt to tip the balance in Republican contests and help the GOP nominate viable general election candidates. In 2010 and 2012, tea party and far-right conservatives cost the GOP seats in Nevada, Delaware, Colorado, Indiana and Missouri and shots at Senate control, a fate Republicans are determined to avoid this November.
"We will aggressively support those candidates who plan to campaign on a free enterprise and growth agenda, have the courage to govern and the ability to win," said Rob Engstrom, national political director for the Chamber.
The GOP needs to gain six seats to seize the majority in the Senate, and emboldened Republicans, pointing to President Barack Obama's unpopularity, are bullish about their chances.
The North Carolina primary is next Tuesday, Georgia two weeks later. The Chamber will begin airing ads Wednesday for North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston.
"Thom Tillis, a bold conservative who balanced our budgets and reduced regulations," intones an announcer in the North Carolina commercial that criticizes first-term Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. "Conservative Thom Tillis. He'll fight Washington instead of joining them."
Tillis is trying to avoid a costly runoff by securing 40 percent of the vote in the May 6 primary against two chief rivals, tea party favorite Greg Brannon and minister Mark Harris. That would give him more time to focus on Hagan, one of the more vulnerable Democratic incumbents.
The ad makes no mention of Tillis' GOP rivals.
"We believe he is the only candidate who can beat Kay Hagan," Engstrom said of Tillis.