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Lincoln Project targets Senate races in Alaska, Maine, Montana with $4M ad buy

The Lincoln Project, a GOP anti-Trump group, on Wednesday launched a $4 million ad buy targeting Senate contests in Maine, Alaska and Montana. 

The buy, which was first reported by Axios, will air for seven to 10 days in key markets in the three states. 

The ads in Alaska and Maine express support for challengers to Republican incumbent Sens. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesGOP senator urges Biden to withdraw support for COVID vaccine patent waiver Overnight Energy: 5 takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline attack | Colonial aims to 'substantially' restore pipeline operations by end of week | Three questions about Biden's conservation goals House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill MORE (Mont.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanHillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Kerry denies allegations from leaked Iran tapes OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court considers whether US should pay for Guam hazardous waste cleanup | EPA eyes reversal of Trump revocation of California vehicle emissions waiver | Kerry faces calls to step down over leaked Iran tapes MORE (Alaska). The spots are dubbed "Real" in Alaska and "Strong" in Montana. The group endorsed Democrat Al Gross in its ad in Alaska ahead of the state's Democratic and independent primary on Aug. 18. 

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Meanwhile, in Maine, the group is airing an ad titled "Trump Stooge," which targets incumbent Republican Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCDC's about-face on masks appears politically motivated to help a struggling Biden Bipartisanship has become a partisan weapon Romney: Capitol riot was 'an insurrection against the Constitution' MORE

"We’re moving into the active phase of the fall campaign as voters, stuck at home because of COVID-19, tune in earlier than ever," the group's communications director Keith Edwards told Axios.

The National Republican Senatorial Campaign committee hit the group over the ads in a statement on Wednesday, taking aim specifically at Collins's opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon (D). 

“This Democrat scam PAC is run by ethically challenged and shady grifters who are backed by liberal billionaires. Like the candidate they seek to help, Democrat Sara Gideon, this PAC has struggled with rampant hypocrisy, unethical behavior, and ties to foreign governments," said NRSC spokesman Nathan Brand.

"Gideon must answer for how she can accept the support of an organization with these problematic ties to Russians, while her campaign relies on political donations from a Putin-tied corporate executive. Mainers know that Senator Susan Collins is the most bipartisan member of the U.S. Senate, and her leadership has helped deliver for Maine.” 

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The Collins campaign touted what they called the senator's bipartisan record in Congress in a statement to The Hill. 

“Senator Collins is literally the most bipartisan member of Congress, and Georgetown University’s Lugar Center called her the 'Gold Standard' for bipartisanship," said Riley Ploch, a spokesperson for the Collins campaign.

"In stark contrast, this ad is a perfect example of how Sara Gideon is running her campaign - dodging debates, staying hidden in Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill MORE’s windowless basement, and letting billionaire Democratic donors run attack ads on her account.”

The Daines campaign hit back in a statement, calling the Lincoln Project a group of "disgruntled former Republicans."

"This group is nothing more than disgruntled former Republicans, turned Democrats, that hate President TrumpDonald TrumpFranklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Man suspected in wife's disappearance accused of casting her ballot for Trump Stefanik: Cheney is 'looking backwards' MORE - something this group has in common with Governor Bullock, who has said his single most important issue this election is defeating Donald Trump," campaign spokesperson Julia Doyle said. 

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The Hill has also reached out to the Sullivan campaign for comment. 

The spots come as Daines and Collins face tough contests in their reelection bids.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the Montana Senate race, where Daines is facing off against Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockDemocratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run Overnight Energy: Climate Summit Day 2 — Biden says US will work with other countries on climate innovation Biden announces picks to lead oceans, lands agencies MORE (D), as a "toss-up." In Maine, the website also rates the race as a "toss-up."

The Cook Political Report moved the Alaska Senate race from "solid Republican" to "likely Republican" last month. Four candidates, including Gross, are running in the state's Democratic and independent primary. 

Updated at 11:07 a.m.