Republicans are running 30-second television ads across Missouri touting Senate candidate Jim Talent's record on health care.
The commercials begin by mentioning that breast cancer claimed the life of Talent's mother, Marie. Paid for by state and national Republican committees, the spot was scheduled to begin airing Friday in media markets across the state.
The narrator says:
"Jim Talent's passion for improving our health care could be rooted in his mother's losing battle with breast cancer.
"He co-sponsored bills to defeat cancer and pushed for medical assistance for victims of devastating diseases.
"As Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, Jim worked tirelessly to improve access to affordable health care for working families.
"Call Jim Talent; urge him to keep fighting for quality, affordable, health care."
A former congressman who narrowly lost the 2000 governor's race, Talent is seeking to challenge Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan. Carnahan was appointed to the seat won posthumously by her husband, Gov. Mel Carnahan, and is campaigning to finish the final four years of the six-year term.
Similar ads running
The Republican Party is running similar ads in states with competitive Senate races, including Minnesota, South Carolina, Colorado and Iowa. The spots are positive accounts of GOP candidates' records on various issues, including defense, education and taxes, said Dan Allen, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The Missouri spot will run for at least a week, Allen said. He and Missouri Republican Party spokesman Scott Baker declined to say how much the GOP is spending, instead calling the airtime purchase "significant."
In Congress, Talent voted against a 1999 patients' rights bill he said exposed small employers to too much liability. However, in 1998, Talent co-sponsored similar legislation allowing limited rights for patients to sue their health insurance companies.
The measure was part of the long-running debate in Congress over efforts to hold health plans responsible for harm to those they insure.
Talent also championed a controversial proposal to let small businesses join together to buy more affordable health insurance for their workers.
Called Association Health Plans, or AHPs, the pooled small-firm plans would be governed by federal law and, like large multistate employers, be shielded from most patient lawsuits brought in state courts. Thus they are under fire from those seeking more extensive rights to sue as well as from big insurance companies, which argue they would destabilize the market and drive up premiums.
Carnahan's campaign responded to the new ads with an account of legislation she has supported, including improvements in cancer patients' and women's access to care and clinical trials and more funds for the National Institutes of Health.
Her campaign criticized Talent's vote on the 1999 patients' rights bill and his support for AHPs, saying they would sidestep Missouri's patient protection laws.
Talent campaign manager Lloyd Smith said Talent was proud to have led the fight for the first patients' rights bill in Congress.
"He's also extremely proud to have led the fight for Association Health Plans, which will give small businesses the ability to pool together to offer health care to their workers at an affordable cost," Smith said.