On the heels of reports that the American Future Fund is launching an anti-Hagel ad campaign, another conservative group has announced it will also run ads opposing the Secretary of Defense nominee. Americans for a Strong Defense, a newly formed group led by former Romney aides, says it will specifically target vulnerable Senate Democrats. Politico reports:
A group of Republican strategists is forming a new outside group aimed at thwarting Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary, with a plan to air TV ads and to have people on the ground in the states of key senators to apply pressure in advance of his confirmation hearing.
Americans for a Strong Defense will be the latest group to hit Hagel from the right. As POLITICO reported yesterday, the well-funded American Future Fund is launching a multistate ad campaign against Hagel, and the William Kristol-founded Emergency Committee for Israel has already aired cable ads in Washington arguing the former Nebraska senator is weak on Iran and in his support for Israel. …
The group’s officials acknowledged that Hagel is a Vietnam veteran and war hero, but made clear they will paint him as “outside the mainstream” on key defense issues.
Among the senators the group will pressure to oppose Hagel are Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. All of those Democrats are up for reelection in 2014.
One of the board members of the new group is Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates. Claver-Carone is a registered lobbyist who has opposed efforts to lift U.S. sanctions against Cuba. While Hagel’s Israel record has already received plenty of media attention, his support for engagement with the Cuban dictatorship has unfortunately received far less coverage. The Politico story doesn’t say whether this group will focus on that issue, but that’s what Claver-Carone’s role seems to indicate.
Hagel’s positions on Cuba likely concern some key Senate Democrats, including Sen. Bob Menendez, who could become a major obstacle for the White House if he decides to oppose Hagel’s nomination.