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 DainesFrom a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project MORE (Mont.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanLincoln Project targets Senate races in Alaska, Maine, Montana with M ad buy Overnight Energy: Official says protesters not cleared from Lafayette Square for Trump | Trump administration blasts banks refusing to fund Arctic drilling | 2019 coal production hit lowest level since 1978 Trump administration blasts banks that refuse to fund arctic drilling 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 CollinsFrom a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell 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 SchumerPostal Service says it lost .2 billion over three-month period A three-trillion dollar stimulus, but Chuck Schumer for renewable energy — leading businesses want to change that Democrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production 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 TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet 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 BullockRepublicans uncomfortably playing defense 300 green groups say Senate has 'moral duty' to reject Trump's public lands nominee Lincoln Project targets Senate races in Alaska, Maine, Montana with M ad buy 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.