WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans rolled out late-campaign attack ads tying Democrats to an unpopular President Barack Obama on Tuesday as the chief executive embarked on a round of travel to boost gubernatorial candidates in a half-dozen states.
One week before election day, the television ad wars neared a crescendo in the battle for Senate control.
In the area around Louisville, Kentucky, campaign officials said target voters could expect to see an average of 97 commercials related to the contest in the final week. The region is ground zero in the race between Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Republican hopes of capturing the Senate received a boost in Kansas, where the Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund announced support for embattled Sen. Pat Roberts in his race with independent Greg Orman — after opposing the 78-year-old incumbent in the GOP primary.
"We've been counting on you, Kansas. You're a Republican state, for goodness sakes!" exhorted Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, lending his tea party star power to the incumbent.
Republicans must pick up six seats to gain a Senate majority. They appear certain of at least three — in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota — and there are nine other competitive races, including six for seats currently in Democratic hands.
Not even Democrats claim they have a chance to win control of the House midway through Obama's second term, and Republicans angled for gains in areas where the president ran well in 2012.
The party's congressional committee unveiled ads in 11 races, and gave the president a featured role in most.
"Under Barack Obama, West Virginia has lost 5,000 coal jobs," says one, targeting Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall.
"Send Obama a message. Defeat Ann Kirkpatrick," says a second, airing in Arizona.
Obama's political itinerary through Election Day was strong evidence of the dilemma facing Democrats.
The president has traveled sparingly this fall, buffeted by poor approval ratings and a need to manage fears that an Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa could find its way to American shores.
Obama's travel plans for the next few days run to Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. He won all six in 2012, and all host gubernatorial races this fall.
His first stop, in Milwaukee, was arguably the most politically significant. Republican Gov. Scott Walker faces a challenge from Mary Burke in a close race.
In a difficult political season, Democrats say they hope to pick off a handful of Republican-held House seats. They are on defense in far more than that, and a party official disclosed that top leaders had raised $500,000 during the day from candidates facing little or no challenge — money that will go to help vulnerable Democrats.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it was advertising on television for 27 seats in the campaign's final week, 22 that they currently control and five held by Republicans.
"She'd privatize Medicare and Social Security, too. ... That's change we can't afford," says one, aimed at Martha McSally, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Ron Barber in Arizona.
The DCCC said Mariannette Miller-Meeks, running against Rep. Dave Loebsack in Iowa, "partnered with a company that outsourced hundreds of jobs overseas to India."
The television ads were non-stop in Kentucky, where the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee returned to the airwaves after an absence of three weeks in a race that is tilting McConnell's way.
"After 30 years, it just feels like Mitch is making his job work for him — and not us," former teacher Estelle Bayer says in the ad. McConnell, she says, "voted himself six pay raises, and became a millionaire."
McConnell, who has aired his share of grim-faced attack ads in pursuit of a sixth term, lightened up in a new one.
It spoofs campaign consultants shown trying to place him in memorable settings that have been used in other ads — standing astride two trucks or near a baby, or with a bloodhound. Finally, the narrator says, "Maybe it's enough for to say, "Mitch fights for Kentucky."
Some developments Tuesday:
A state judge in Georgia declined to act on a dispute over 56,000 voter-registration applications. The NAACP and other groups accused elections officials of not processing applications quickly enough.
Both sides geared up for a Dec. 6 runoff in Louisiana, assuming that neither Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu nor Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, wins outright next week.
The Republican campaign committee has booked $2.8 million for television ads in a runoff, and the Democrats $1.8 million. A conservative business coalition, the Charles and David Koch-backed Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, has booked another $1.8 million to oppose Landrieu.
Associated Press writers Donna Cassata and Philip Elliott in Washington, David Lieb in Wichita, Kansas and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this story.