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Coats Ad Goes After Opponent For Gitmo Votes

Image iconellsworth_coats.jpgRepublican U.S. Senate hopeful Dan Coats is playing up his experience abroad and criticizing his Democratic opponent over Guantanamo Bay in his first general election television ad.

Democrats dismissed the ad as hypocritical and a political analyst said the topic was an odd choice for the former senator's first ad after the May primary.

Coats says in the 30-second ad that he became ambassador to Germany in 2001 and that Germany was a "crossroads in the war on terror." Coats, shown in front of an American flag, says Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth voted to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and "move terrorists to the U.S. where they could have the same legal rights as Americans."

"As your senator, I'll fight the move," Coats says.

The new Coats commercial began running Friday in the Indianapolis market. The Coats campaign would not say how much was spent on the air time, but the Ellsworth campaign said the two-week run in Indianapolis will cost more than $150,000.

Robert Dion, a professor of American politics at the University of Evansville, said foreign policy isn't typically a top issue for voters in Congressional races, and that most Hoosiers are thinking more about jobs and the economy than Guantanamo Bay.

"That is a very unusual issue to start your campaign on," Dion said. "In a lot of ways, it sounds like yesterday's news."

Coats campaign spokesman Pete Seat said Coats is talking about the economy as he hits the campaign trail and that the ad shows voters some of the differences between the Republican and his Democratic opponent.

"The ad is meant to contrast Ellsworth's dangerously naive record on national security with Coats' vigilance and record of service," Seat said. "National security's always an important issue."

In October, Ellsworth was among Democrats who voted against a Republican effort to block the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. for trial. The House instead stood by a Democratic plan to allow suspected enemy combatants held at the controversial facility in Cuba to be shipped to the U.S. only to be prosecuted.

Democrats called the Coats ad the "height of hypocrisy" because Coats' former Washington lobbying firm King & Spalding said in its 2009 annual review that its lawyers represented six men from Yemen being held without charges at Guantanamo Bay.

"Dan Coats is clearly trying to distract Hoosiers from his own troubling record of representing foreign clients instead of considering the safety of American communities," Ellsworth spokeswoman Liz Farrar said in a statement.

Although the ties between Coats and Guantanamo Bay detainees may be a thin thread Coats himself never represented Guantanamo detainees it makes sense for the Ellsworth campaign to jump at the chance to mention lobbying again, Dion said.

"It gives them yet another opportunity to remind people that Coats has been a lobbyist," he said.

Republicans said the new Coats ad was a sign of momentum for the campaign, especially since Ellsworth took his two ads off the air last week after running them for about six weeks. Republicans estimated those ads cost Ellsworth's campaign at least $600,000 about half of the $1.2 million Ellsworth had on hand at the end of June. Coats had about $1 million on hand during the period that ended June 30.

Ellsworth's first ads focused on his background as a former Vanderburgh County sheriff. Coats, who left the Senate in 1999 following 10 years in office, has more name recognition statewide and is considered the front runner in a traditionally red state in what is expected to be a good year for the GOP.

Ellsworth and Coats are vying for the seat being vacated by Democrat Evan Bayh, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.

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