Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), facing a vigorous primary challenge from Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N..J.), went on the offensive Thursday, launching an ad accusing his opponent of being closer to President Bush than to the values of the Democratic party.
His message was amplified by the rest of the New Jersey Democratic delegation, who stood alongside Lautenberg at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Thursday afternoon, criticizing Andrews for his occasional divergence from the Democratic party agenda.
The members cited Andrews' initial support for the Iraq war - and continued support of it up until 2005 -- and a decade-old vote he cast as part of Newt Gingrich's Contract with America that cut back federal welfare benefits.
"One of my concerns with Rob Andrews is that on too many occasions he's sided with Bush and the Republicans," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). "I've often wondered over the time that I've known Rob if New Jersey wasn't such a blue state, if he actually would be a Republican."
Lautenberg's advertisement - the third television spot his campaign has aired - also draws a series of policy contrasts between himself and Andrews.
"Senator Frank Lautenberg stopped the Bush Republicans from cutting children's health care. Congressman Rob Andrews voted with Newt Gingrich to slash school lunches," a narrator says in the ads.
The ad concludes by contrasting the two candidates' positions on Iraq: "Andrews co-wrote Bush's resolution getting us into Iraq. Senator Lautenberg's fighting to get us out."
Meanwhile, Andrews offered some of his sharpest rhetoric to date directed at Lautenberg's age, challenging him to a debate sponsored by the region's ABC affiliates, and explicitly suggesting the 84-year-old senator may be too old to serve another term in office.
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