Jun 22, 2012 4:08 PM by Gregory Wallace - CNN
It's one thing when a candidate distances himself from his political party. It's another thing when the candidate's party supports his bid with an ad promoting that he "refuses to toe the party line."
A new television advertisement from the Montana Republican Party does just that, highlighting several House votes Rep. Denny Rehberg cast out of line with other Republicans.
Rehberg, who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat this fall, is an "independent thinker," the ad declares.
A source with knowledge of the buy says it is for approximately $200,000. The Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant which estimates the size of television buys, says the ad began airing in several markets statewide on Wednesday.
The otherwise conservative Republican is seeking to oust the Democratic incumbent Sen. John Tester in a state where voters regularly split their ballots.
Montana's governor and both senators are Democrats. Rehberg is the state's sole delegate to the U.S. House. Republicans comprise two-thirds of the state House and hold 28 of the state Senate's 50 seats.
The ad highlights Rehberg's vote against the 2011 Medicare plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, which would have privatized the program and given future benefit recipients a subsidy to buy private health insurance.
Following that April 2011 vote, he said in a statement: "It doesn't matter to me whether it's a Republican plan or a Democrat plan, what matters is whether or not the plan is right for Montana. This budget -- the first one we have even considered in two years -- has a lot of good things in it that I fully support.
"But there are still too many unanswered questions with regard to Medicare reform, and I simply won't support any plan until I know for a fact that Montana's seniors will be protected," he continued.
Exit surveys from the 2008 election, the most recent year for which statewide numbers are available, showed 18% of Montana voters were age 65 or older and 37% were between age 45 and 64. Census data from 2010 showed 14% of the state's population were 65 or older.
Federal spending on health care is of special importance to Rehberg, who is chair of the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing that area.
Chris Shipp, a spokesman for the Montana Republican Party, told CNN, "Denny Rehberg has been an independent leader who has always put Montana first. In contrast, Senator Tester has been a rubber stamp for Barack Obama's agenda, putting liberal partisan politics ahead of Montana values."
Rehberg was rated as 81% conservative overall in 2010 by the National Journal, which rated Tester as 48% liberal that year.
The ad also cites Rehberg's vote against the Wall Street bailout of the Bush administration.
"In a very partisan town, Denny Rehberg stands out," the ad says. "And that's good for Montana."
Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said they were pleased to see the Republicans spending money against their own policies.
"It's nice to see Republicans finally admitting that their budget policies will absolutely harm Medicare for seniors," Canter said in a statement. "We're glad Republicans are spending money to spread the word about just how dangerous the Republican budget plan really is."