The Club for Growth political action committee has kicked off its effort to try to help Representative Alex Mooney catch up to Governor Jim Justice in the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
The conservative, pro-business PAC is spending $1.2 million to air an advertisement on TV and digital media called “Proof.” The female announcer asks, “Whose side is Jim Justice on?” The commercial then features a clip from Justice where he says, “I’m not here to please the Republicans. I’m not here to please the Democrats.”
The ad then cites information from the OpenSecrets website and the Federal Election Commission documenting Justice’s political contributions to Democratic candidates, while showing images of former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It concludes with text that reads, “Jim Justice for Democrats. Not for us.”
The Justice campaign was quick to respond with a press release saying the Club for Growth and affiliated PACs are working against the re-nomination of former President Donald Trump. “The Club for Growth has spent millions in a failed effort to defeat President Donald Trump. Unsurprisingly, they are now attacking Governor Justice, whom President Trump has strongly endorsed,” said Justice campaign manager Roman Stauffer.
All the polls so far have Justice with a significant lead over Mooney. The MetroNews West Virginia Poll from back in August had Justice up 58-26 with 16 percent unsure. More recent polls also show Justice ahead by at least 30 points.
Justice does not have many vulnerabilities, but the most significant one is that he used to be a Democrat and has donated to Democratic candidates. The Club for Growth ad is an attempt to exploit or at least magnify that point with Republican Primary Election voters.
Of course, the other team gets to play, too. Justice has the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. That means the Senate Leadership Fund PAC, which is closely associated with McConnell, can help Justice. It is worth watching to see if that PAC responds with its own ads critical of Mooney.
An ad buy of over $1 million is substantial in a small state, and I would expect the Club for Growth PAC to poll after the ads run to determine if they were able to move the needle. If so, then the Club for Growth may be more reassured in its commitment to spend up to $10 million in the race in support of Mooney.
If not, well, there are lots of other races in the country that are closer than Justice and Mooney where the PAC’s money could make a bigger difference.