- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2014

When Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic challenger in Kentucky’s Senate race, wanted to distance herself from President Obama, she picked up a gun.

Ms. Grimes launched a new ad Monday showing her shooting skeet, before turning to the camera and flatly declaring, “I’m not Barack Obama” — becoming the latest Democrat to reject an association with her party’s leader.

Mr. Obama’s approval ratings continuing to sink, with the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing just 40 percent of registered voters approve of the way he is doing his job. That in turn has sent Democratic candidates scrambling to put space between him and them, particularly in GOP-leaning states that were never keen on the president in the first place.

In addition to Ms. Grimes, Sen. Mark Begich, Alaska Democrat, rolled out his own distancing ad, saying he “took on Obama” to fight for oil drilling in the Arctic and voted against the president’s “trillion-dollar tax increase.”

“These anti-Obama ads are getting brutal,” said Paul Lindsay, spokesman for Crossroads GPS, a conservative advocacy group co-founded by Karl Rove.

“All of these attempts, as laughable as they may be, will only grow in intensity in the coming weeks as Democratic campaigns continue to scrounge for any message that can possibly help resuscitate their poll numbers,” Mr. Lindsay said in an email sent to reporters.

SEE ALSO: Shaheen, Brown even in new poll in New Hampshire Senate race

Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, another vulnerable Democrat on the ballot in a red state, arguably set the tone last year in the first ad of his re-election campaign, which highlighted how he opposed Mr. Obama’s push for tighter gun control laws in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

“No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do,” Mr. Pryor said. “I listen to Arkansas.”

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana also ran an ad earlier this year that featured old footage of her saying that “the administration’s policies are simply wrong on oil and gas production in this nation.”

Others have made clear their differences on the debate stage, including Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, who said in his first showdown with his Republican challenger Rep. Cory Gardner that he is the “last person” the Obama administration wants to see walking across the White House lawn.

The veteran lawmakers may have a tougher time distancing themselves than Ms. Grimes, who has not held national office and has tried to depict her opponent, GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as the Washington insider in the race.

Mr. McConnell’s campaign quickly tweeted out its own response to the Grimes ad on Monday, showing Ms. Grimes firing a rifle above an older picture of Mr. Obama doing the same thing. The two images are separated by a blue banner that reads “Grimes = Obama.”

SEE ALSO: Alaska Sen. Mark Begich pulls TV ad that highlights gruesome crime

The Democratic Senate incumbents have built voting records that show them voting with Mr. Obama at least 90 percent of the time, according to Congressional Quarterly’s 2013 vote study.

The anti-Obama ads, though, can work.

Democrat Joe Manchin, who was West Virginia’s governor, successfully won the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd in 2010 after running an ad in which he touted his support for gun rights and drove home his willingness to push back against the Obama administration by shooting a hole in a copy of administration-backed legislation to impose a “cap-and-trade” system to combat carbon emissions and global warming.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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