A Republican group dedicated to maintaining control of the Senate is keeping an eye on candidates in the Democratic presidential primary, most recently spending six-figures to target Montana governor Steve Bullock.
The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC focused on growing the Republican majority in 2020, isn't trying to hurt Bullock's chances to be the Democratic nominee—it wants the new ad campaign targeting Bullock to serve as a warning that it will be prepared for him to change his mind.
Bullock disappointed Democratic officials when he launched his presidential campaign earlier this month, a decision that effectively dashed hopes of unseating Republican senator Steve Daines in Montana. Senate recruitment efforts were also unsuccessful with Beto O'Rourke in Texas and John Hickenlooper in Colorado, both in the crowded presidential field, and even with Stacey Abrams in Georgia, who ruled out a Senate run but is still considering a run for president
Jack Pandol, the group's communications director, wants them all to know their presidential run will be used against them should they change their mind.
"Democratic presidential candidates like Steve Bullock will find out there is a steep political cost to treating their state like a consolation prize," Pandol said.
The new ad, which can be viewed below, criticizes the Montana governor for using taxpayer resources for his presidential campaign, highlighting the presence of his official security detail during out-of-state campaigning.
"Steve Bullock's running for president while Montana is still paying for his salary and for Montana Highway Patrol to travel on his out-of-state political trips," the ad says.
"Would your boss pay for your next job search?" it asks. "Should Montana be paying for Steve Bullock's?"
A Bullock spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the ad campaign. Local reporters have asked Bullock whether he plans to reimburse the state for expenses related to his presidential campaign, but got no response.
Democrats are hopeful that Bullock will eventually realize he has little chance to emerge from the crowded presidential primary and give in to calls for him to run for Senate, according to Politico.
President Donald Trump carried Montana by 20 points in 2016. Bullock was also on the ballot that year and managed to win a tight reelection battle despite having Hillary Clinton on top of the ticket.