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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 DainesOn The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser Government used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 GOP blocks effort to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (Mont.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration proceeds with rollback of bird protections despite objections | Trump banking proposal on fossil fuels sparks backlash from libertarians | EU 2019 greenhouse gas emissions down 24 percent Trump banking proposal on fossil fuels sparks backlash from libertarians Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing 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 CollinsBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him GOP blocks effort to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks 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 SchumerPelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms Trump supporters could hand Senate control to Democrats 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 John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts 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 BullockOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte wins Montana governor's race Senate control in flux as counting goes forward in key states 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.