Election day may be 20 months away, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving forward with his first ad Thursday starring his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.
In the straight-to-camera ad, Chao responds to Progress Kentucky, a Democratic super PAC under fire for racist tweets.
"You've seen the ads attacking my husband. 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. That's how low some people will stoop."
Chao continues, "Mitch works his heart out to protect Kentucky from Washington's bad ideas because Mitch loves Kentucky. We love Kentucky. The meanest personal attacks can never change that."
Last month, the super PAC tweeted, "This woman has the ear of @McConnellPress—she's his #wife. May explain why your job moved to #China!" The group later apologized and removed the tweet.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee called on national Democrats to denounce ProgressKY.
"This disgusting attack and this organization must be condemned immediately by top Democrats across the board." McConnell's campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement, "It is unconscionable that anyone would use blatant race-baiting for political gain. Progress Kentucky should be ashamed of themselves. We hope all Americans can agree that these disgusting tactics have no place in American politics."
Actress Ashley Judd, who is considering a run against McConnell, also condemned the comment on Twitter.
msnbc contributor Howard Fineman reported over the weekend that Judd has told key advisers she plans to run, and will announce her candidacy this spring.
Whatever the intention, whatever the venue, whomever the person, attacks or comments on anyone's ethnicity are wrong & patently unacceptable— ashley judd (@AshleyJudd) February 26, 2013
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter responded to McConnell's ad on Wednesday, "We strongly disagree with the tweet that Mitch McConnell is referencing in his new ad, but let's be honest: Mitch McConnell is not a victim. In fact, he is the reason for Washington's dysfunction." Canter also called McConnell "the meanest, most negative campaigner in all of Washington" and said "Kentuckians and all Americans are sick and tired of his nasty, partisan brand of politics."
The DSCC believes that McConnell, who is seeking a sixth Senate term, is vulnerable, but the Louisville Eccentric Observer reported last week that the committee is reconsidering Judd after their own internal polling.
According to the Observer, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes outpolled Judd in the DSCC poll. On a conference call with reporters Monday, the committee's executive director, Guy Cecil, wouldn't deny the report, and described the actress as one in "a handful of quality candidates in Kentucky."
The McConnell campaign is making a six-figure buy, running the 30-second ad in the Louisville and Lexington markets for a week beginning on Thursday.