- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

RICHMOND | A Democratic political action committee is spending more than half a million dollars on a TV advertising blitz that hammers Republican Bob McDonnell for his opposition to enhanced unemployment benefits.

It’s by far the heaviest television purchase of this year’s governor’s race and the first to include the expensive Northern Virginia and D.C. market.

It also marked the sharpest escalation yet in a Democratic strategy targeting Republicans for voting along party lines April 8 in the General Assembly to reject $125 million in federal stimulus cash. Those funds are intended to sweeten unemployment insurance benefits in the wake of a March state jobless rate that nearly doubled, from 3.6 percent last March to 7 percent at latest report.

Common Sense Virginia is spending $550,000 on the seven-day ad run in the state’s dominant media markets. The Democratic Governors Association has given the PAC at least $850,000 since mid-March.

The ad opens with scenes of an empty refrigerator, a car fuel gauge on empty and an announcer accusing Mr. McDonnell, the presumed GOP nominee, of worsening the crisis for the jobless. It concludes: “If Bob McDonnell won’t stand up for Virginia’s unemployed, do you think he’d stand up for you?”

The ad refers to Mr. McDonnell’s support for the vote in the GOP-dominated House of Delegates to reject Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine’s unemployment benefit enhancement amendments.

Mr. Kaine, who is also chairman of the Democratic National Committee, asked lawmakers to make benefits available for the first time to part-time workers. He also sought to extend the benefits’ eligibility period for people who lost jobs through no fault of their own and are training for new jobs.

Republicans and business organizations railed against the changes as a federal intrusion into state matters, saying that would eventually force employers to pay higher unemployment insurance taxes on each of their workers after the stimulus cash runs out.

Republicans are defending their six-seat majority in the 100-member House in this fall’s legislative elections. Mr. McDonnell is unchallenged for the GOP nomination for governor this fall.

Mr. McDonnell’s campaign spokesman, J. Tucker Martin, dismissed the ad campaign as “another misleading, negative attack by an outside group funded by national Democrats.”

Mr. McDonnell, however, has taken even more national party cash. Republicans, reeling nationally from last fall’s election losses, are desperate to end an eight-year losing skid in contested statewide races in Virginia, where the party controlled every elected institution of power as recently as 2001.

The Republican Governors Association has given Mr. McDonnell nearly $1.25 million - one-fourth of the slightly more than $5 million his campaign has raised so far. The race is already on track to shatter state fundraising records, inundated by heavy spending by both national parties.

The DGA established Common Sense Virginia to carry the fight to Mr. McDonnell while Democrats R. Creigh Deeds, Terry R. McAuliffe and Brian J. Moran battle among themselves before their June 9 gubernatorial primary.

Through Monday, CSV will spend slightly more than $400,000 to reach the large, Democratic-leaning electorate in Virginia’s D.C. suburbs.

Downstate, it is spending nearly $55,000 to air the 30-second ad in Richmond, almost $45,000 in Roanoke’s television market and slightly more than $52,000 in Norfolk. It is augmenting its over-the-air purchase by buying time in cable systems in each of those markets.

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