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McConnell opponent opens $29K air war

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Political rookie Matt Bevin got national press attention earlier this week when he launched a political ad war within hours of announcing his primary challenge to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. But we now know the would-be Kentucky giant killer is prepared to put some serious money where his mouth is.

Contracts captured by Sunlight's Political Ad Sleuth show that Bevin already has dropped $29,375 at two Louisville TV stations to buy TV spots over the next two weeks. The figure is the first indication of the financial resources of the GOP challenger: As a just-declared candidate, Bevin has not yet had to file a financial disclosure with the Federal Election Commission. 

His ads actually followed a preemptive strike against him by McConnell. No contracts for the veteran senator's latest buy have yet surfaced, but McConnell already has been active in buying air time on his home state, Ad Sleuth shows. The contracts captured by Sunlight's tool may reflect just the tip of the political iceberg as the Federal Communications Commission only requires television stations in the top 50 markets to put their political ad files online. Of the seven TV markets that cover Kentucky, only two -- Louisville and Cincinnati -- are covered by the FCC order requiring onling ad posting.

Even so, Ad Sleuth suggests that McConnell's impending effort to win a fifth Senate term this year has meant Christmas in July -- as well as February, March, April, May and June -- for his home state's TV stations. Outside groups running the gamut from anti-immigration legislation FAIR and Numbers USA to Planned Parenthood and the left-leaning Progressive Change Campaign Committee all have been buying "issue" ads that target McConnell. A chart of the ad buys that Ad Sleuth has captured in 2013 is here.

McConnell is catching flak from his left and right flanks. Bevin is running against him for the GOP nomination as a tea party candidate. Democrats meanwhile are coalescing around Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes for the fall campaign.