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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- The 2014 race for Kentucky's U.S. Senate seat is out of the gate fast. Senator Mitch McConnell's first ad has hit the air, nearly two years before the election.
The ad is getting national attention for several reasons. First, McConnell is the Senate Minority Leader; second, it's early, 20 months before the election; and third, the ad features not McConnell, but his wife.
"You've seen the ads attacking my husband," the ad begins. "As Mitch McConnell's wife, I've learned to expect them. Now far left special interests are also attacking my ethnicity. Even attacking Mitch's patriotism because he's married to me."
In the ad, McConnell's wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, punches back at what she calls "far left special interests." That's a likely reference to the group, Progress Kentucky and its director Shawn Reilly.
Last month, Progress Kentucky sent out a racially-charged tweet saying Chao's marriage to McConnell, "May explain why your job moved to China."
"We wanted to send out a message early to everybody. The attacks are coming. They're going to be vicious, they're going to be early and often. But Leader McConnell is going to be rock solid, explained Jesse Benton, McConnell's Campaign Manager.
Progress Kentucky has since apologized, and two people, a volunteer and its then-spokesman, have left. But the group says it remains committed to defeating McConnell. Progress Kentucky's director said he did not have time for an interview.
The fact that McConnell has released the ad nearly two years before the election, may indicate that the campaign is nervous about a possible challenge from actress Ashley Judd.
"I wouldn't say that there's a lot of worry in the McConnell camp, or Team Mitch as it's being referred to. But I would say that they clearly are keeping their eye on what's going on here," said Dr. Dewey Clayton, a Political Science professor at the University of Louisville.
"We're always keeping an eye on who might run against Leader McConnell. Really, what we're trying to do though, is build the best campaign organization we possibly can, build a campaign that's the best Kentucky's ever seen," said Benton.
The ad is running in Louisville and Lexington. The campaign says the cost is in the low six-figures. But money should not be an issue for McConnell. At last report, the campaign had more than $7 million in the bank.